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After Month-Long Deadlock, Naga Peace Talks Take A “Positive” Turn

The centre was able to end a deadlock in talks with Naga rebel group NSCN(IM) over the demand for a separate Naga flag and constitution, winding up a crucial round of negotiations on a “positive note” on Monday.

Although the government is now likely to extend the October 31 deadline for the talks, well-placed sources say this decision will be finalised only after another round of negotiations with seven other rebel groups – known as the Naga National Political Groups (NNPGs) – in New Delhi on Tuesday. Nagaland Governor RN Ravi will act as the centre’s interlocutor in the proceedings.

According to sources, two back-to-back meetings between the centre and NSCN(IM) in the span of a month had ended inconclusively with both sides remaining rigid on their respective stands. While the NSCN(IM) maintained that it will not sign the final deal unless the demand for a separate flag and constitution was met, the centre flatly refused any such concession.

The NNPGs are, however, ready to sign the final pact – leaving a window open for further political discussion on the separate flag and constitution. This has led to fears of unrest in Nagaland and the Naga-dominated hill areas of neighbouring Manipur.

Sources said that the deadline for concluding the talks is likely to be postponed for a couple of reasons: The centre is apprehensive of a flare-up in the law-and-order situation in the country ahead of the official bifurcation of Jammu and Kashmir into two union territories on October 31. The central government also feels that signing a deal without taking aboard the NSCN(IM), which has been the Naga face of the talks for 22 years, may not result in a complete success.

However, the core issue of the separate flag and constitution remains inconclusive even today, with the centre hoping that the NSCN(IM) will reconsider its demand.