Vajpayee seeks to end insurgency in far east
GUWAHATI, India, Jan 20: Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee was due to arrive in the country's far east later today for top-level discussions on ending five decades of separatist insurgency in the region, reports AFP.
The highlight of Vajpayee's three-day visit will be a meeting with the chief ministers and governors of all seven northeastern states in Shillong, capital of Meghalaya state.
Senior police, paramilitary and army officials will also attend the meeting, said a spokesman for the state government in Assam -- largest of the seven states.
"Topping the prime minister's agenda will be to work out measures to combat militancy and ways to fight rampant corruption and misuse of funds granted from New Delhi by north-eastern state governments," the spokesman said.
The seven states together receive an annual grant of 120 billion rupees (2.7 billion dollars) from the central government.
Vajpayee is expected to announce a special rehabilitation package for surrendered militants besides working on bringing the 30-odd separatist groups in the region to the negotiating table.
"So far there has been no definite rehabilitation package for surrendered militants and some of the rebels who had laid down arms have once again gone back to the jungles, finding no incentives after surrendering," the spokesman said.
"The new rehabilitation package will definitely attract militants to join the mainstream."
Insurgency in India's tea- and oil-rich far east has claimed more than 25,000 lives over five decades.
Vajpayee will be accompanied by Home Minister L.K. Advani, Defence Minister George Fernandes, Finance Minister Yashwant Sinha and army chief General V.P. Malik, officials said.
The government spokesman said officials would take up the issue of cross-border terrorism and the Bangladeshi nationals illegally entering India.
"Due to the porous international borders with Bangladesh, Bhutan and Myanmar, northeastern militants take shelter in neighbouring countries, thereby complicating the task of the security forces in combating militancy," he said.