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Centre moves on Naga talks

New Delhi, Aug. 9: The Centre is set to club the posts of joint intelligence committee (JIC) chairman and interlocutor for Naga talks and is understood to have finalised former special director in the Intelligence Bureau R.N. Ravi for both posts, sources said today.

As an interlocutor, Ravi is expected to hammer out a time-bound settlement with Naga rebel groups.

The move is said to be a part of a bigger plan to “change the status quo”. It is also a signal that talks with Naga rebels will not carry on in the “old format”, the sources said.

Till last week, the name of former JIC chief Ajit Lal, who retired on July 31, was understood to have been finalised as the interlocutor until the Prime Minister’s office issued final orders in the middle of this week.

Lal had temporary charge of interlocutor, but the post was vacant after he demitted office. The Centre has now made the dual arrangement permanent unless a settlement is reached within the three-year tenure of the JIC chief.

The security establishment, with national security adviser Ajit Doval at the helm, is said to be redrawing the contours of the security apparatus in general and the intelligence establishment in particular. Ravi’s appointment as JIC chief is understood by insiders to be a sign of that.

Doval’s appointment as national security adviser was the first indication while his deputy Nehchal Sandhu’s replacement by IFS officer Arvind Gupta was another part of an overhaul.

The appointment of Ravi, a 1976 batch Kerala cadre officer, is one more move in that direction, sources said.

According to them, Ravi has been given the liberty to change the format of the talks, making negotiations time-bound and expeditious. The former special director has not hidden his strong views on insurgency and the Naga imbroglio.

Sources said the NSCN (I-M), whose leaders are camping in New Delhi awaiting a date for talks, may not be pleased with the government’s decision.

Ravi felt the problem could be resolved and not carry on endlessly.

“There are genuine aspirations of the Nagas and the problem can be solved, but there has to be pragmatism as well,” Ravi told The Telegraph.

He said a time-bound resolution of the problem is possible.

For now, the NSCN (I-M)’s problem is the issue of autonomy to the Naga areas in Manipur, one of the major hitches in the negotiation.

There is unrest in the hills in Manipur with a restive United Naga Council protesting against government policies.

Nagaland chief minister T.R. Zeliang has thanked the Centre for appointing its interlocutor and hoped that the Naga peace process would be accelerated.


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