Ibobi reaffirms territory stand

Imphal, Feb. 6: Chief minister Okram Ibobi Singh is not prepared to accept any peace deal between the Centre and the NSCN (I-M) if it harms Manipur's interest and disturbs its territorial integrity.

"We cannot say yes to a peace deal with the NSCN (I-M) before seeing the contents of the agreement in advance. We cannot accept a solution that will harm Manipur's interest and sow seeds of its division in future," Ibobi Singh told reporters on his return from Delhi today.

Accompanied by deputy chief minister Gaikhangam, Ibobi Singh met Union home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde in Delhi yesterday and discussed the Centre's plan to sign a peace deal with the Naga militant group. The peace talks, which began in 1997, is now in the final stage.

Ibobi Singh was camping in Delhi since January 16 while Gaikhangam, who is also the home minister, rushed to Delhi yesterday after Shinde summoned him.

Ibobi Singh said he had clearly conveyed Manipur's stand to the home minister during the meeting. He also sought details of the offers made by the Centre to the NSCN (I-M). Shinde assured him that the information would be made available at the appropriate time.

Territorial integrity is a sensitive issue in Manipur and Ibobi Singh sought to clear doubts in the minds of the people about his meeting with Shinde and his stand on the Centre's plan to conclude the NSCN (I-M) peace talks.

Ibobi Singh said the Centre was planning to sign the deal after the Nagaland Assembly election. "We will welcome a solution which is acceptable to all," he added.

"We want to maintain good relationships with neighbouring states. We also don't want to harm the interest of other states. We want peace and development in all the states in the region," Ibobi Singh said.

He also plans to propose to the Centre effective functioning of village authorities and the six autonomous district councils as a solution to the grievances of the hill people. The people in the five hill districts have been complaining of negligence by the state government.

The Nagas have been seeking an alternative administrative arrangement while the Kukis have been seeking a separate state. Special secretary (internal security) in the home ministry, S. Jayaraman and joint secretary Shambhu Singh, will meet United Naga Council leaders at Senapati on February 12.

"If the functioning of the village authorities and the district councils are not effective, the government is ready to make amendments in the Manipur Village Authority Act 1956 and Autonomous District Council Act 1971," he said.

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