Today's Paper

PM's Nagaland visit begins today

NEW DELHI OCT. 26. The Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, is scheduled to begin a three-day visit to Nagaland tomorrow amid expectations that his first visit to the insurgency-ridden Northeastern State as Prime Minister would help consolidate the ongoing Naga peace process.

Apart from taking stock of the peace process that has witnessed four rounds of talks this year with the major insurgent group, NSCN (Isak-Muivah), Mr. Vajpayee is likely to inaugurate a slew of development projects in Nagaland and meet representatives from several major non-governmental organisations. These include the apex tribal body, the Naga Hoho, the Naga Mothers' Association, students and church leaders who have played a pivotal role in strengthening the peace constituency.

The Prime Minister will attend the first convocation of Nagaland University and lay a wreath at the War Cemetery in Kohima. A civic reception will be held for him at the Indira Gandhi stadium in Kohima.

At the Raj Bhavan in Kohima, the Prime Minister will hold meetings with the Governor, Shyamal Dutta, and the Chief Minister, Neiphiu Rio. Leaders of political parties are also scheduled to meet Mr. Vajpayee. Mr. Rio is the convener of the North-Eastern Forum, a recently launched front of non-Congress regional parties.

With the ceasefire agreement between the Centre and the NSCN (I-M) holding ground since August 1997 and its extension by another year beyond July 2003, the Prime Minister's visit is likely to be a "milestone" in the sense that it could pave the way for discussions on substantial political issues. However, official sources here said that the Prime Minister was not likely to make any announcement regarding the ongoing peace process but did not rule out the possibility of a special economic package for the State.

The NSCN (I-M)'s demand for "unification" of Naga-dominated areas in the Northeast had threatened to derail the peace process and sparked angry, violent protests in Manipur which subsided only after the Centre assured the State that its territorial integrity would be upheld. As Mr. Vajpayee is scheduled to have a series of meetings with representatives of NGOs and political parties, he will be in a position to assess and evaluate their views that can provide crucial inputs to the Government's efforts to end the 50-year-old insurgency in the State.

Recommended for you