M A I N   N E W S

Naga leaders meet PM
Seek peaceful, honourable solution
S. Satyanarayanan
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 7
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today told the Nationalist Socialist Council of Nagaland (I-M) leadership that the Centre favoured a “mutually acceptable and honourable” solution to the decades-old problem in Nagaland.

“Our government will make sincere effort to find an honourable way out,” Dr Manmohan Singh told the visiting NSCN (I-M) Chairman Isak Chishi Swu and General Secretary T. Muivah, who called on him this morning at his Race Course Road residence.

The Prime Minister accorded a warm welcome to the two Naga leaders, who are here to carry forward the Naga Peace Process though dialogue on “substantive issues”, and said that his government was committed to ensure that Naga people have “life of dignity”.

During their 30-minute meeting with Dr Manmohan Singh, the Naga leaders emphasised that “a solution cannot be found in violence and blood”.

Subsequently, at a meeting with the Union Home Minister, Mr Shivraj Patil, the leaders expressed confidence in Indian leadership and said “the whole world is seeking peace. So we also want peaceful solution.”

Stressing that any solution should be based on the “uniqueness of Nagas”, the NSCN(I-M) leadership said: “We want to be rational and understand your difficulty,” sources said.

During the 45-minute meeting, which was described by Mr Patil as “courtesy call”, the leaders are understood to have drawn the attention of the Home Minister to the memorandum they have handed over to the Prime Minister and Centre’s interlocutor for Naga peace talks K. Padmanabhaiah, in which their stand has been spelt out.

Throwing some light on the “uniqueness” of the Nagas, the leaders, who arrived here on Sunday from Amsterdam to hold talks, pointed out that the Nagas never targeted innocent persons, the sources said.

Appreciating the commitment shown by the Naga leaders to find a negotiated settlement of the issue, Mr Patil told the leaders that “my respect for you have gone up”.

While describing the meeting as a “courtesy call”, Mr Patil later clarified that: “We did not discuss anything substantive or controversial. We will work for peace and make all efforts to create a good atmosphere.”

Mr Padmanabhaiah and some senior officials were present at both the meetings.

In a related development, an emissary of the collective leadership of the NSCN(I-M), Mr V.S. Atem, issued a statement terming as “mere speculation” news report that discussion on “substantive issues” have started.

“Discussion on substantive issues has not started hence. News report defining the parameters of dialogue is mere speculation,” Mr Atem said, adding the NSCN (I-M) leaders would call on Congress President Sonia Gandhi tomorrow.

They are also expected to meet the former Prime Minister, Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the Leader of the Opposition, Mr L.K. Advani, and Left party leaders, Mr A.B. Bardhan and Mr Sitaram Yechury, in the next two days.

During their stay in India, Mr Swu and Mr Muivah would visit Nagaland after a gap of over 30 years, celebrate Christmas and meet cadres of the NSCN (I-M).

Mr Swu and Mr Muivah had last month voiced reservation about their visit to this country in the wake of charges by its rival group NSCN (Haplang) that they were “undermining” the issue of sovereignty and talking to New Delhi.

They had also stated that another underground group NNC was “arming” itself in Nagaland, while the NSCN (I-M) was observing a ceasefire.

The NSCN (I-M) leaders changed their stand after Mr Padmanabhaiah spoke to them on the telephone and gave the assurance that the Indian Government was “sincere” in continuing the peace process.

The demand of the NSCN (I-M) for creation of a “Greater Nagaland” had earlier sparked off large-scale violence in Manipur. Outfits in Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh are strongly against the creation of “Greater Nagaland” and extension of the ceasefire beyond the boundaries of Nagaland.

In a joint statement issued on October 23 at the end of two-day talks between Mr Padmanabhaiah and Mr Muivah in Bangkok, the NSCN (I-M) had said the Prime Minister’s invitation to the outfit’s leaders to visit India showed that the Indian government was “committed to finding an early and mutually satisfactory solution to the Naga issue.”

The two sides had agreed that the Prime Minister’s invitation would give an impetus to the peace talks. The NSCN (I-M) leaders had then agreed to visit New Delhi in the last week of November.

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