The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Ibobi not to unleash army on rebels

Imphal, Oct. 1: Manipur chief minister Okram Ibobi Singh may have over a dozen militant groups on his platter of troubles but he would rather not use the gun to bring peace, or so he claims.

Ibobi Singh today ruled out a full-fledged military offensive against militant groups in his state, saying that his government was trying to establish contact with leaders of these organisations to bring them to the negotiating table.

“We believe that one day the leaders of these armed groups will realise the futility of violence. It may take some time but they will surely accept our offer for talks,” the chief minister told the media.

However, he admitted that none of the peace initiatives by Delhi and his government had evoked a positive response yet from the militant leadership.

Ibobi Singh said the Secular Progressive Front government had a two-pronged strategy in mind — to strictly maintain law and order and continue the efforts to persuade armed groups to come to the negotiating table.

The chief minister, who is also chairman of the unified command structure, ruled out a military offensive like the one in Mizoram years ago to force militants to opt for peace talks.

During his recent visit to Imphal, the general-officer-commanding (GOC) of the Eastern Command, Lt Gen. Arvind Sharma, announced that the army had entered into veritable ceasefire arrangements with a dozen splinter militant groups.

Signed on different dates, the agreements have no time limit.

The Ibobi Singh government, however, is not ready to toe that line yet. “The army’s agreement with the ethnic militant groups is an experiment. But before entering into such an agreement with a major militant group, issues like the ground rules (of a ceasefire), the monitoring authority and the action to be taken in case of violation of the terms should be clearly worked out. Such an agreement should be made in clear terms,” the chief minister said.

He said the government would prefer to wait and watch for some more time before taking a decision on joining the agreements between the splinter groups and the army.

The government will complete its term on March 7 and the Election Commission intends to conduct Assembly elections almost immediately, possibly before March 17.

On his becoming the first Manipur chief minister to last so long, Ibobi Singh said that was because his government had been able to achieve at least 50 per cent of the targets set by the Congress-led coalition. He said improving the financial health of the state was one of the major achievements of the government.

The chief minister is planning to publish a report card of his government later this month.

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