The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Dutch ‘mediator’ in Naga talks gaffe

New Delhi, March 2: Michael van Walt van Praag’s entry into the Naga peace process may have been with Delhi’s consent, but there was nothing remotely official about the Dutchman’s entry into Nagaland this week without the mandatory Restricted Area Permit (RAP) for foreigners.

Less than two months after NSCN (I-M) chairman Isak Chishi Swu allegedly sneaked into Nagaland from across the Indo-Bangladesh border in the Northeast, the militant group’s Dutch counsellor and his wife landed in the state without informing anybody there of their visit.

The diplomatic gaffe was quickly corrected, enabling Praag to visit the NSCN (I-M)’s Camp Hebron near Dimapur and a few more places before returning to New Delhi on Wednesday without further controversy.

Cracking the Naga conundrum could, however, prove to be a little more difficult for Praag than going to Nagaland minus proper documents and getting away with it.

The NSCN (I-M) and the Centre are scheduled to resume their dialogue in the capital tomorrow with Praag playing “facilitator”. Thuingaleng Muivah arrived in New Delhi last night without the usual fanfare and the baggage of positive energy he professes to carry to every round of talks.

A source close to the NSCN (I-M) admitted today that the signs were not healthy.

Even Praag, who represents the NGO Kreddha, has reportedly begun to see the NSCN (I-M) as being “too adamant” on certain issues.

Kreddha — International Peace Council for States, Peoples and Minorities is a non-profit organisation dedicated to the prevention and resolution of violent conflicts between population groups and the states within which they exist. Delhi has always been saying that the militant group needs to be “more political and diplomatic” and “less emotional” in dealing with the problems at hand.

The NSCN (I-M) signed a ceasefire agreement with Delhi in 1997 and submitted its demands after four years of negotiations, mainly on streamlining the truce mechanism. In subsequent years, the discussions have covered the issues of integration of all Naga-inhabited areas with Nagaland, a joint defence mechanism, a separate constitution for the Nagas and control of education, home affairs and tourism in “Naga areas”.

The subject of integration has been the thorniest one, especially with Manipur bent on scuttling any move to take away a part of its territory.

Back home, some senior NSCN (I-M) leaders have been huddled in talks with supporters and Naga village heads from within the state and its neighbours. Two other senior functionaries of the outfit, Rh. Raising and M. Angami, will be with Muivah during the negotiations in New Delhi.

A source said Muivah’s arrival in the capital was “kept under wraps”, explaining the absence of the supporters who usually throng the Indira Gandhi International Airport whenever he comes for talks. Last night, there were only a few aides with the NSCN (I-M) general secretary as he walked out of the terminal with a posse of security personnel in tow.

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