The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Cooks and commandos take position
- Naga leaders’ guards and special chefs reach capital from Dimapur

New Delhi, Jan. 8: All arrangements are in place for NSCN leaders Thuingaleng Muivah and Isak Chisi Swu’s visit to India, including their personal security guards and special cooks flown in from Dimapur.

The interaction of Muivah and Swu with India’s top political leadership will set the tone for the peace talks aimed at ending one of the country’s oldest separatist movements.

The Intelligence Bureau will be responsible for the overall security of the two Naga leaders and senior members assembled in the national capital. The inner security cordon around Swu and Muivah will be manned by NSCN “commandos”.

On behalf of the Centre, Padmanabhaiah will receive the leaders at the Indira Gandhi international airport when they land at 11.30 tonight.

Padmanabhaiah, the former home secretary, has been the Centre’s interlocutor in preparatory talks with the NSCN leaders which stretched over five years in locales outside the country.

The Centre has so far not assigned any senior political leader to conduct the negotiations with the Naga leaders. The NSCN had earlier made it clear that they would like negotiations to be held with a political emissary instead of bureaucrats.

There were expectations that Delhi would make an announcement before the formal talks began. “Official delegation-level talks will certainly be held, but only after the NSCN team meets the Prime Minister and the deputy Prime Minister,” Padmanabhaiah said. “So far, the formal talks are scheduled to be with the IB chief and myself,” he said.

Senior sources at North Block said that as the NSCN leaders will meet Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and his deputy L.K. Advani as well as defence minister George Fernandes, there was no need at this point to depute a senior political leader for the negotiations.

“Anyway, this will be a get to know the other side kind of meeting. The NSCN leaders will for the first time be able to gauge for themselves the sincerity of the Indian leadership. This preliminary round is basically to build confidence and trust,” the official said.

The NSCN team, led by Muivah and Swu, will be assisted by several of the outfit’s senior leaders. Others who will make up the official team are R.H. Raising, the NSCN “minister” based in Bangkok, as well as the “home side”, that is the top leaders who operate from Nagaland.

“General” V.S. Atem, the former head of the NSCN military wing, “Colonel” Phungthing, Angelius Shimray and Horam will be part of this group.

Thirty-six NSCN members are expected in Delhi during the visit, of which 22 are already in town, including the two aide de camp and personal security officers.

The Naga Hoho, the Nagaland Students’ Federation, and members of the Naga Council have already arrived here and will be at the airport to greet Swu and Muivah.

The formal engagements of the NSCN duo would begin tomorrow at 9.30 am when they go to Rajghat to place a wreath at the samadhi of Mahatma Gandhi. The Nagas respect Gandhi because he stood up for the Naga right to determine their future.

Their next stop will be Padmanabhaiah’s office. At 7.30 pm, they will call on Vajpayee. The meeting with the Prime Minister has been pushed back as there is the fear that thick fog at the airport may lead to the flight’s diversion to Mumbai.

Padmanabhaiah and IB chief K.P. Singh will be present during the talks. This will be the NSCN leaders’ third meeting with Vajpayee. The first was in 1988 in Paris and the second in Osaka, during Vajpayee’s official visit to Japan.

A long meeting is being planned with Advani, likely the next day. To appraise political leaders across party lines, the NSCN delegation will also meet Congress leader Sonia Gandhi, Samajwadi Party president Mulayam Singh Yadav, BJP president Venkaiah Naidu, Rashtriya Janata Dal leader Laloo Pradad Yadav and Lok Sabha Speaker Manohar Joshi.

If possible, they will also meet Telegu Desam Party chief Chandrababu Naidu.

According to Padmanabhaiah, Muivah and Swu will be in India for 10-15 days. But Naga sources say they will leave within a week.

The Centre had initially arranged for the two top leaders to stay at Hyderabad House, but the NSCN leaders refused because the last time they were in Delhi for talks with former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, they were put up there and the talks had failed.

The Centre has now arranged a secure farmhouse for Swu and Muivah.

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