NEW DELHI, Feb 1 (IANS) - The highlight of 2010 was the change in the situation in the northeast with violence at its lowest level in many years, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said Tuesday and stressed that the government would respond to any group that desired genuine peace.
"The highlight of the last year has been the change in the situation in the northeast. The trend of declining violence and casualties continued in 2010, and I have been told that violence is at its lowest levels in many years," Manmohan Singh said at the chief ministers' internal security conference here.
"I have repeatedly stated that the Indian constitution is a remarkably flexible instrument, capable of accommodating a diverse range of aspirations. What is essential, however, is a genuine desire for peace and a willingness to abjure the path of violence," he said.
Pointing out that the government was committed to respond to the demands of any groups that gave up armed struggle, the prime minister said there had been fruitful engagement with several groups in 2010 and the government would continue to deepen the process of engagement this year.
Home Minister P.Chidambaram, who spoke just before the prime minister, also said there had been a dramatic change in the situation in the Northeast.
"2010 witnessed the lowest level of violence in many years. Barring Assam and Manipur, the other states have shown remarkable improvement. No civilian was killed in Nagaland or Mizoram. No security personnel was killed in Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland or Mizoram," he said.
Noting that nine insurgent groups were in talks with the government or were poised to commence talks, Chidambaram said, "The time has come to change our perceptions or the insurgent groups".
"So long as they are willing to talk and reach honourable and just settlements, we must treat their leaders honourably and fairly; we must give their cadres an opportunity to return to the mainstream or society and start new lives; and we must prepare the people for reconciliation."
The Home Minister said the government hoped to be able to conclude agreements with some of the groups in the near future.