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Last Updated: Friday, 30 July, 2004, 16:37 GMT 17:37 UK
India rebels extend ceasefire
By Subir Bhaumik
BBC correspondent in Calcutta

The Indian government and Naga rebels in the north-east of the country have decided to extend their ceasefire by another year.

The agreement between the main faction of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN) and Delhi was reached during talks between Indian representatives and NSCN leaders at Chiang Mai, a Thai town close to the border with Burma.

The two sides have been engaged in negotiations for the past seven years without a solution in sight to the five-decade-old Naga insurgency, India's first ethnic rebellion.

India's main negotiator, D Padmanabiah, told the BBC that the peace process with the NSCN was back on track.

The former home secretary said there were differences, but both sides had agreed to continue the dialogue to find a solution to the Naga problem.

NSCN spokesman K Chawang confirmed the extension of the ceasefire, but did not elaborate.

He merely said Nagas from all walks of life want the dialogue to continue so that a peaceful settlement is found and the NSCN had to respect popular sentiment in the Naga areas.

Peace talks

Talks between the two sides have continued since 1997 when the Naga rebel group decided to explore the possibility of a settlement through dialogue.

A group of young Naga rebels
Generations of rebels have fought the same battle
But after India's new ruling alliance led by the Congress party took power and worked out a common minimum programme that ruled out the integration of Naga-inhabited areas into a single administrative unit as demanded by the NSCN, the rebel leaders publicly expressed their ire.

The rebel leaders were also upset because the venue of the talks was shifted from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, which they alleged was done to avoid a meeting between them and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who is in Bangkok for a regional conference.

Mr Padmanabiah is assisted in the talks by the country's new chief of domestic intelligence, Ajit Doval, while the NSCN delegation is led by its chairman Issac Chisi Swu and general secretary Thuingaleng Muivah.

The ceasefire was due to expire on Saturday and will now be valid until 31 July 2005.

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