The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Army shares Naga talks hope

New Delhi/Rangiya (Assam), Jan. 24: Barely a few hours after NSCN (I-M) leaders Th. Muivah and Isak Chisi Swu flew out of the country today, the army expressed the hope that the landmark talks would have a “positive impact” on insurgent outfits in the Northeast. Before boarding the flight to Amsterdam, the two NSCN (I-M) leaders, too, echoed a similar view.

Asked to leave a message for the many militant outfits his organisation had inspired, Muivah said: “If the government of India is prepared to talk to them (insurgent outfits), we shall certainly tell them that they, too, should be prepared to understand the government. We will also ask our friends to be prepared to find a better solution.”

In his first reaction, the commander of 4 Corps, headquartered in Tezpur, Lt. Gen. Mohinder Singh, said the Naga peace process would make other militants realise that “gun-culture has no role to play in the country”.

Addressing a news conference at the headquarters of the Red Horns division in Lower Assam’s Rangiya today — where 27 militants of the NDFB and the Ulfa surrendered — the army official said the Naga talks would definitely attract other militant outfits to the negotiation table.

“Every conflict in the world has to end at the negotiation table. Be it the World War I or II, the Indo-Pak conflict of 1965 and 1971 or the insurgency in Mizoram, the warring sides had to sit together. Only talks can lead to an agreement to resolve differences,” he said.

The general said the militancy movement in Assam had registered a “curve”. Today’s surrender was proof of this, he said. The army is implementing a strategy to cut off the resources and supplies of the militants to compel them to opt for negotiations, he said.

In the past six months, about 60 people have been arrested in Lower Assam by the army as part of its drive to control the militants’ resources, he said.

In Delhi, Muivah criticised the policies pursued by former Naga leaders, terming them “blunders” that lacked transparency. “Naga leaders had committed blunders and the negotiations (that were) carried out lacked transparency. But we will keep the talks transparent,” he told a group of Naga students at the airport.

NSCN (I-M) chairman Swu briefed the crowd on the developments that had taken place since their arrival in the capital on January 9. “We met the Prime Minister, deputy Prime Minister and other political leaders. The talks have begun on a positive note and we are sure of reaching a solution soon,” he said, as he shook hands with the students.

The Naga leaders also said they would ask other insurgent groups of the region “to be prepared to understand” the Centre’s point of view, if they were invited for negotiations. “We are sure they (these outfits) have got many things to learn from this experience of ours,” Muivah said.

On the recent statements of Manipur chief minister Ibobi Singh regarding the state’s territorial integrity, the leaders said they were “satisfied” with the Centre’s clarification but insisted that the peace talks would continue on all issues, including the unification of Naga areas.

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