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SOURCE: IANS

The Naga peace talks that had begun in 1997 have been put on a fast track and the crucial meeting between the NSCN-IM and Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio-led Core Committee of Nagaland held on Satuday has a “positive” outcome. Sources also told IANS that the NSCN delegation is likely to visit New Delhi soon for a meeting with the Central leaders.

“It’s definitely seen as good and positive news on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s birthday… But things may be still too early to rejoice,” the source said.

“The militant group, which had earlier raised the issues of Flag and Constitution, is keen for talks with the Centre based on clauses and promises made in the Framework Agreement of August 3, 2015,” the source said.

The NSCN-IM delegation is likely to meet Central leaders and representatives on September 20.

The key meeting between NSCN-IM leaders and the Chief Minister Rio and his colleagues including Y. Patton, deputy Chief Minister and floor leader of the BJP, came within days of the September 12 meeting between the Core Committee and Union Home Minister Amit Shah.

The Centre had categorically made it clear that the onus was on the NSCN-IM to end the stalemate and ensure an early inking of a peace pact.

The Nagaland Core Committee initially proposed to meet the militant leaders after September 22 when the assembly session would end. However, in between due to certain developments the meeting was advanced and held on Saturday, September 17.

In between of course , BJP national president J.P. Nadda also visited Nagaland. But there was no direct connection between his visit and the developments related to the Naga peace talks, sources insisted.

The delegation of state MLAs and ministers – that includes leaders from NDPP, NPF and the BJP, shared with the ultra leaders on what transpired at the meeting between the state delegation and Union Home Minister Shah on September 12.

At the September 12 meeting, Shah and the Central government officials told the Naga delegation that they were approaching the “wrong man” when chief minister Rio and others were trying to impress upon the government of India on the need to “expedite” the peace process.

The reference was made to the recent data revealed by the National Crime Bureau which noted that the Nagaland tops the list of states for extortion and related offences. “People are fed up with extortion in the name of peace process for the last so many years”, was a refrain of several Naga leaders.

With regard to the Flag and a separate Naga constitution, Shah was categorical – “… Woh baat nahi karna” (do not raise these two issues).

The Home Minister, however, told the visiting delegation, “You ask for anything else, we are there with you”.

According to sources, some of these ‘crystal clear assertions’ from the Centre at the September 12 meeting had left the Nagaland delegation dumbfounded at times.

One member among the 11-member panel led by Chief Minister Rio had told the Central leaders and officials on September 12 – “next time, when we go, we will request them”.

This was strongly countered by the Centre and reportedly came with the snub – “What request…no request!”.

Observers say the message from New Delhi in other words being – better get the work done.

At the meeting, the Core Committee of legislators and ministers were told that the ‘delay’ in inking a final peace pact was not due to the Centre but because of NSCN-IM demands for Flag and Constitution.

The Centre is very serious about an early solution, sources maintained adding, this is the case not only because it was BJP’s election promise of 2018, it is also because the Nagas of Nagaland and the civil society messages to Prime Minister Narendra Modi have been very clear that people are frustrated with extortion and they are all craze for a solution and lasting peace.

The Naga delegation was also cornered in a way when the issue of ‘Nagas of Myanmar’ was raised by the Centre.

Sharing an anecdote of the meeting, sources claimed Shah himself made reference to the word ‘Manipur’.

Obviously this was in reference to NSCN-IM leader Thuingaleng Muivah, who is a Tangkhul Naga and Tangkhuls mostly reside in Manipur hilly region.

At one point during discussions, the Core Committee was quizzed, “You all are talking about Naga integrity, integration of Naga inhabited areas. But what about the Nagas of Myanmar, are you taking them on board?”

Puzzled at such a question, one member amongst the 11-member panel meekly remarked, “Sir, that’s out of the box”.

The umbrella organisation of seven militant groups operating within Nagaland, NNPG, has signed a preliminary Agreed Position pact in 2017 and is keenly awaiting centre’s call for signing the peace pact.

Sources also say that in their Status Paper, the NNPG had proposed for ‘special autonomous territorial councils’ for Nagas of Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur and Nagaland even with legislative powers.

In a major development on Sept 13, the two rival camps NSCN-IM and NNPG came together and signed a joint statement stating – “We are aware of our differences” and therefore all individuals and organisations should “refrain” from all forms of “rhetoric, assumptions and agendas that are divisive”.

The Joint Accordant clearly laid down a roadmap.

It aptly said – “….in order to chart a path forward, we (NNPG and NSCN-IM) remain committed to peace and respect and to resolve outstanding issues amongst us”.