Pillai to chair first round of talks with ULFA


NEW DELHI, Feb 8: Home Secretary G K Pillai will chair the first round of the much-awaited talks with the ULFA while Home Minister P Chidambaram may have an introductory meeting with the leadership of the banned group during the 10th February meeting.
Centre`s interlocutor P C Haldar said the proposed meeting in Delhi will be a familiarisation exercise for both sides to know each other`s view before the formal dialogue process.
“It will be a preparatory kind of meeting. The talks will begin with a meeting with Home Secretary while the Home Minister may drop in to meet the ULFA leaders if he is available,” Haldar said.
ULFA `foreign secretary` Sasadhar Choudhury hinted that the group`s core demand of `sovereignty` will not be discussed as it decided to go for “unconditional talks”.
Though the ULFA leaders want Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to be present during the talks as he represents Assam in Parliament, such a possibility is remote due to the paucity of time.
“The ULFA leaders may meet the Prime Minister but it will be only a courtesy call. The Prime Minister will not get into the nitty-gritty of the talks,” Haldar said.
Peace talks with ULFA are expected to give a major boost to Congress party — which has been ruling Assam for two consecutive terms — before the Assembly elections in April-May.
However, doubts have been raised whether the peace process would be successful as ULFA`s elusive military chief Paresh Baruah is opposed to any dialogue with the government if the group`s key demand of sovereignty is not discussed.
Baruah is still at large and believed to be in Myanmar where ULFA reportedly operates armed training camps.


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