National Socialist Council of Nagalim (Isak-Muivah) general secretary Thuingaleng Muivah has agreed to participate in the next round of peace talks with the Centre in April.

Union Home Secretary G.K. Pillai revealed this here on Tuesday while speaking to journalists on the sidelines of the 58th meeting of the North Eastern Council (NEC).

The peace talks between the NSCN(I-M) and New Delhi was deadlocked for nearly one year, with the last round of talks held in March 2009.

Mr. Pillai said the Centre would appoint an interlocutor later this week for facilitating the peace talks.

In 2009, the Centre did not extend the tenure of the previous interlocutor, K. Padmanabhaiah, and held direct talks with the NSCN(I-M) leadership.

The former Union Home Secretary, Padmanabhaiah, was appointed interlocutor in July 1999 initially for one year and his tenure was extended every year till 2009.

“On the invitation of the government of India, the NSCN (I-M) leadership has proposed to come to India between April 1 and 10, 2010 to hold talks and carry forward the peace process. To that end, the government of India will be appointing an interlocutor to facilitate the talks and to bring about an early solution,” according to a statement from the Ministry of Home Affairs.

Nagaland Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio said there had been some progress in the peace talks although it had been taking a lot of time. “One good thing happening is that all the three groups — NSCN(I-M), NSCN(Khaplang) and FGN [Federal Government of Nagaland] — have been meeting under public pressure on the Forum for Naga Reconciliation platform. They have so far held seven summits in Chiangmai (in Thailand) and have signed a covenant in the seventh summit for ceasefire among themselves,” the Chief Minister told journalists on the sidelines of the meeting.

On the issue of holding talks with the United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA), the Home Secretary said the recommendations of the official-level discussion held recently would soon be placed before Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram and Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi, who would take the final decision.

Options to be placed

Asked if the talks would be held with the jailed leaders of the outfit and minus the elusive commander-in-chief of ULFA Paresh Barua, Mr. Pillai said a strategy was being worked out and various options would be placed before the political leaders.

Asked if the government had any information on the whereabouts of Barua, the Home Secretary said there were reports of the ULFA C-in-C travelling to Kunming in China primarily to take shelter and possibly to procure arms. He could now be on the Kachin-China border.

He said pressure was being mounted on the ULFA C-in-C through Myanmar and a coordinated action by India and Myanmar would be taken as agreed by both countries during his [Mr. Pillai] visit to Myanmar.

Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi said that when the ULFA leaders came forward to hold peace talks it would be held in a dignified manner. “I do agree that nobody can talk with handcuffs on. The moment they agree to come forward for talks they will be arranged in a dignified manner.”

Mr. Gogoi said the government would like Barua too to come for talks but expressed doubt if he would respond positively.

No breakthrough

Vinay Kumar reports from New Delhi

The peace process with the NSCN(I-M) was started in 1997 by putting in place a ceasefire arrangement. Since then, nearly 50 rounds of talks have been held without achieving any breakthrough.

Officials said the Centre was trying to bring all underground and tribal groups of Nagaland under one roof and hammer out a new political and economic solution acceptable to all.

The Centre’s proposed package includes financial largesse, greater devolution of powers, special steps for the protection of Naga culture and heritage.