Nagaland Governor RN Ravi will hold further negotiations with the NSCN(IM) over the next two days to strive for a final settlement by October 31, the deadline originally set for concluding the Naga peace talks.
However, official sources had earlier indicated that the centre - which has appointed RN Ravi as its interlocutor for the talks - may give the NSCN(IM) more time to sign the final settlement, extending it beyond the deadline. All contingents of the Indian Army and Assam Rifles operating in Nagaland and Manipur have been asked to rework their ground domination strategy and report back to their headquarters, sources said.
In a positive development, seven other rebel Naga groups - jointly referred to as the Naga National Political Groups or NNPG - told RN Ravi in a meeting today that they are ready to sign the final peace agreement by October 31. They said they are okay with an economic package while leaving a window open for future political talks on separate Naga flag and constitution.
The contentious issues of the separate Naga flag and constitution could not be resolved despite the NSCN(IM) and the centre holding several rounds of talks in that connection this month. Sources in security agencies operating in the Northeast confirmed that NSCN (IM) cadres have already moved away from their designated camps into remote areas, even those in neighbouring Myanmar, where the Northeast rebel groups maintain their bases.
Meanwhile, in the Naga-dominated hill areas of neighbouring Manipur, fears are growing over the peace talks compromising the territorial integrity of the state. While state governor Najma Heptullah has already reached Delhi to talk to the centre, Chief Minister N Biren Singh will lead an all-party delegation to the national capital in the coming days. A local group - the Coordinating Committee on Manipur Integrity - has also announced a protest rally against the peace talks on October 31.
Further tension is expected across both the states, with the NSCN(IM) on Tuesday accusing NNPG members of recruiting and training cadres belonging to the Kuki tribe - arch-rivals of the Nagas in terms of domination over hill areas. Hostility between the two tribes dates back to colonial times.