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Nagaland Home Minister Imkong Imchen said today that there could be an early settlement to the six decades Nagaland conflict

Imchen said “We are optimistic for an early settlement, especially after Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde showed a keen interest in resolving the Naga issue,”

These comments followed a published report that the Nationalist Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN) faction led by Isac Swu and T. Muivah had decided to accept the Indian constitution and drop the demand for a Greater Nagaland.

New Delhi’s main interlocutor R.S. Pandey, a former petroleum and natural gas secretary, did not comment on the report but said the peace process remained on track.

On a telephonic conversation Mr. Pandey “The peace process is on the right direction and I have held several meetings with them (NSCN-IM) but at the moment things are yet to concretise”

On Monday, Nagaland Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio led a 19-member delegation of legislators, including opposition leader Tokheho Yepthomi, to meet Shinde in Delhi to apparently thrash out the final contours of a peace settlement with Naga insurgents.

Rio, Imchen, Congress leader Tokheho Yepthomi and MPs Khekiho Zhimomi and C.M. Chang were among the 20 Joint Legislators Forum (JLF) members who also met NSCN-IM chairman Isak Swu and general secretary Muivah.

In New Delhi, the panel would also meet opposition leader Sushma Swaraj, NCP chief and Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar as well as other political leaders cutting across party affiliations.

Separatists have been fighting for an independent Nagaland for over six decades.

The NSCN-IM later demanded a ‘Greater Nagaland’ by slicing off parts of three neighbouring states to unite 1.2 million Nagas. The demand is opposed by Assam, Manipur and Arunachal Pradesh.

The NSCN-IM and New Delhi entered into a ceasefire in August 1997. They have held more than 50 rounds of peace talks to end one of South Asia’s longest-running insurgencies that has killed 25,000 people since 1947.

The NSCN-IM, one of the most influential separatist outfits in the northeast, has rubbished reports that New Delhi has secured a written commitment from it to remain within the Indian constitution.

“No agreement was made by NSCN-IM. If any agreement was arrived at, it would be made known to the public,” said T.T. Among, the ‘kilo kilonser (home minister) of the NSCN-IM.

Among also maintained that no one except Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the central home minister were authorised to make such statements.

During earlier talks, the NSCN-IM had proposed “a special federal arrangement” to enable the Nagas self-governance but the negotiations ended inconclusively.

The NSCN-IM wants a special federal relationship with India, with a separate Naga Constitution, and would like the guerrillas to jointly guard the international borders alongside Indian security forces.

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