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Naga leaders meet Manmohan Singh, Chidambaram

New Delhi, March 2 (Calcutta Tube) Hoping to break fresh ground, the top leadership of the Isak-Muivah faction of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN-IM) Tuesday met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh after several rounds of talks with a government-appointed interlocutor.

The prime minister’s meeting with the frontline Naga separatist outfit lasted for over 40 minutes but there was no immediate comment on the outcome.

The rebel group’s general secretary Thuingaleng Muivah led the five-member delegation that arrived here Saturday night from self-imposed exile in the Netherlands.

India is offering wide autonomy to Naga people as it has already rejected the rebels’ demand for an independent homeland in northeastern India bordering Myanmar.

Muivah later met Home Minister P. Chidambaram for a comprehensive discussion on finding a lasting solution to the six-decade vexed issue, which includes the boundary dispute with neighbouring Manipur and Assam.

‘We had a comprehensive discussion and the NSCN-IM will continue the negotiation with the government of India,’ Muivah told reporters after the meeting.

Home Secretary G.K. Pillai had earlier stated there was no question of accepting the rebels’ demand for a sovereign homeland outside India.

The NSCN-IM has been invited by the government for peace talks. The rebel leaders have been speaking to the government’s new pointsperson R.S. Pandey, a former petroleum secretary.

‘We are hopeful, very optimistic…but no compromise on our right to sovereignty. We have not given up and will never give up the demand for our independence,’ V.S. Atem, convener of the steering committee of the NSCN-IM, told IANS.

The NSCN-IM is fighting for the expansion of the mountainous Nagaland state into a ‘Greater Nagaland’ and carve out an independent state with a promise to maintain federal relations with India.

The NSCN-IM’s demand for a ‘Greater Nagaland’ would unite over 1.2 million Nagas in northeast India. But the demand has been strongly opposed by the neighbouring states of Assam, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh.

The last round of peace talks between the government and the separatist group was held in March 2009 in Zurich, Switzerland, and ended in a stalemate.

The NSCN-IM had entered into a ceasefire accord with the Indian government in August 1997. They have held 67 rounds of talks with the government so far.

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