The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Track II move on Ulfa talks

Guwahati, Dec. 19: With both the banned Ulfa and the Centre refusing to budge from their respective stands, a fresh move is under way to bring in the two sides to hold preliminary talks outside the country.

The peace efforts came unstuck after both Ulfa and Delhi placed their respective conditions for holding direct talks.

Sources associated with the failed effort said an attempt is now being made to arrange a meeting of the two parties abroad. For this purpose, Ulfa would have to send one of its leaders to another country while Delhi, too, would despatch a senior official.

The meeting would be “unofficial” and try to pave the way for official parleys in India, as was done in the case of the NSCN (I-M).

The People’s Consultative Group, constituted by Ulfa, also enjoyed its mandate for preparing the ground for direct talks between Ulfa and Delhi. But it could not achieve much as both sides became rigid after taking the first few tentative steps.

Regarding the behind-the-curtains meeting in another country, everything would depend on Ulfa’s willingness, the sources said. PCG co-ordinators Mamoni Raisom Goswami and Rebati Phukan might be roped in to convince the outfit.

“The positive experience of the Naga talks needs to be emulated for conflict resolution in other parts of the region. Breaking the ice in another country through Track II diplomacy was one of the positive experiences which need to be put to test again,” said a source privy to the latest move.

He said it was the avowed policy of the government to resolve the insurgency problem through political negotiations and for that, it was ready to walk the extra mile.

Goswami also said she would soon meet national security adviser M.K. Narayanan to discuss how the stalled process could be resumed. “I think things would again start moving after January,” she said.

Goswami urged the government to show a degree of leniency as a “guardian” of the people. “I think the government should climb down a bit to facilitate the talks. I don’t understand why the government is so reluctant to release the jailed Ulfa leaders. I personally think it tends to gain from such a gesture as Ulfa would lose public sympathy if it does not come for talks after its leaders are released,” she pointed out.

She also allayed apprehensions that releasing the incarcerated leaders would strengthen the outfit. “What difference can they make' They are weak and infirm,” she argued.

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