Panel welcomes PM's assurance

Imphal, Jan. 18: The United Committee, Manipur (UCM), which is spearheading the campaign for safeguarding Manipur's territorial boundary, welcomed Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Union home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde's assurance that settlement of the Naga issue would not disturb Manipur's integrity.

"We welcome a peace pact with the NSCN (I-M). However, the Centre should come up with a white paper on the progress of the talks and make public the proposed solution to the peace talks. We will not accept any solution that would harm the interest of Manipur's territorial boundary," UCM president Y. Nabachandra told The Telegraph today.

A joint political convention led by chief minister Okram Ibobi Singh yesterday met both the Prime Minister and the Union home minister separately in New Delhi.

The delegation comprising leaders of 14 political parties met the central leaders to seek the Centre's help in arresting NSCN (I-M) cadre R.P. Livingstone in the Momoco molest case.

Ibobi Singh convened an all-party meeting on December 25 and decided to lead the delegation after the Imphal valley went up in flames demanding the arrest of Livingstone, who allegedly molested Manipuri actress Momoco during a concert in Chandel district on December 28.

The delegation, which included deputy chief minister Gaikhangam, also raised the issue of Manipur's territorial integrity during the meeting.

The delegation raised the state's boundary issue in view of the Centre's plan to sign a peace deal with the NSCN (I-M) this year. Sources said the peace talks, which began in 1997, are in the final leg.

After the meeting, Ibobi Singh yesterday said the Prime Minister assured the delegation that the Centre would not compromise on Manipur's territorial integrity while working out a peace deal with the Naga militant outfit.

There are apprehensions in Manipur of the likely outcome of the peace talks, as the NSCN (I-M) is demanding integration of all Naga-inhabited areas of Manipur, Assam and Arunachal Pradesh with Nagaland.

The chief minister also said the Union home minister made the same commitment. The delegation, however, maintained that details of the peace talks were not disclosed to the delegation.

"We welcome the Prime Minister and home minister's assurance of safeguarding Manipur's boundary. However, the Centre has not disclosed the progress of the talks and likely agreement," Nabachandra said.

He said the committee and civil society bodies of Manipur were closely monitoring the development in New Delhi with regard to the NSCN (I-M) talks and prepared to face any eventuality on the question of Manipur's boundary.

The Prime Minister and home minister also assured the delegation that the Centre would do everything to help the Manipur government arrest Livingstone.

The Ibobi Singh government, which announced a cash reward of Rs 5 lakh, believes that Livingstone fled Manipur and is taking shelter at NSCN (I-M)'s Camp Hebron.

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