The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Nine years on, Naga talks survive on hope

Kohima, July 21: After nine years of deadlocked negotiations to end one of the longest-running insurgencies in the country, Delhi is banking on “two or three” more rounds of talks with the NSCN (Isak-Muivah) to give it a “clear picture” of the road ahead.

“We will come to a definite path after another two or three rounds of talks,” Union minister Oscar Fernandez, who is leading the team of government negotiators, told The Telegraph today.

He said both sides would also know whether there is a solution “on the horizon or not”.

Fernandez is in the state to feel the pulse of the Naga community before he proceeds to Bangkok for the next round of discussions with the NSCN (I-M), slated for July 28. He has been meeting politicians and representatives of various NGOs since arriving here.

The Union minister confirmed that a blueprint for a solution to the “Indo-Naga” problem had been discussed already, but both sides were maintaining utmost confidentiality to prevent people from jumping the gun.

Fernandez hinted that the ceasefire agreement, due to lapse on July 31, would be extended “as it meets with the expectations of people here”.

The NSCN (I-M) has been insisting on the integration of all Naga-inhabited areas of Manipur, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh with Nagaland, while Delhi has said time and again that a political consensus is essential for a decision to be taken. The government has, however, stopped short from taking up the issue with the states that will be affected if it accedes to the Naga outfit’s demand.

“We have not reached the stage where everyone (other states) can be included in the discussions,” Fernandez said.

On the allegation that the negotiations have not been transparent, the Union minister said doubts would remain until the final picture emerged. “The basic premise is that until everything is decided, nothing is decided,” he said.

In a stern response to the NSCN (I-M)’s restiveness, Fernandez said if the outfit did not see hope, it could say “enough is enough” and nothing would prevent either side from abrogating the ceasefire. He was quick to add, however, that peace was the priority.

The minister disclosed that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh would get involved in the negotiations only when something concrete emerged.

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