NATIONAL

NSCN leaders coming on Wednesday for talks

NEW DELHI JAN. 3. Leaders of the main Naga insurgent group NSCN (I-M) will arrive here on January 8, marking a significant step in the on-going talks for a negotiated political settlement. The NSCN (I-M) leaders, Thuingaleng Muivah and Isak Chishi Swu, will meet the Prime Minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee, on January 9. The Deputy Prime Minister, L. K. Advani, will also be present at the meeting.

Four Prime Ministers have met with the NSCN (I-M) leaders in exile over the last decade. However, all these meetings took place outside India. Mr. Vajpayee met the Naga leaders in Paris in 1998 and then again in Japan in 2001. The meeting in New Delhi is not simply a change of location but "signifies a commitment on both sides to the talks and to a negotiated settlement", the government's special emissary, the former Home Secretary, K. Padmanabhaiah, told The Hindu today.

He said that although no time-frame could be fixed for completion of the talks, the fact that the NSCN (I-M) general secretary, Mr. Muivah and chairman, Mr. Swu, were coming to New Delhi suggested that the atmosphere could not be more conducive for progress in the talks. This was the "dividend of five and a half years of peace".

The NSCN (I-M) had during this time "given up violence as a political strategy and decided to take the path towards a negotiated settlement." The Government had decided in November last not to renew the 20-year long ban on the NSCN (I-M). The effective lifting of the ban had meant that Mr. Muivah and Mr. Swu could travel to India for the first time in decades

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