Any political dialogue between the Centre and the Naga rebel groups must take into account the integration of all contiguous Naga territories, said the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (Isak Muivah) on Sunday.

The NSCN (IM), which is the largest rebel group in the region, claimed that the Centre had also agreed that the integration of these territories was the legitimate right of the Naga people, PTI reported. The group criticised Nagaland Chief Minister Neiphiu Rio for allegedly suggesting last month that integrating all Naga areas was impossible. Rio has denied making any such statement.

“The issue of integration of all the Naga territories is an integral part of the ongoing Indo-Naga political dialogue,” the outfit said. “Both the parties [Centre and rebel groups]...mutually agreed that it will be pursued through earnest political democratic process.”

The group said the Naga territories had been “kept apart arbitrarily and indiscriminately” by the British and then distributed between Myanmar and India under former Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru without the consent of the Naga people. This is unacceptable, the group said, adding, “Talks sans integration of all the contiguous Naga areas will be a futile exercise... The Nagas will stand ground to the last.”

Naga rebel groups have been fighting for Nagalim or Greater Nagaland for decades. It is envisioned as a sovereign territory comprising Nagaland and “all contiguous Naga-inhabited areas”, including parts of Assam, Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh and Myanmar.

In December, Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh said the territorial integrity of Arunachal Pradesh, Assam and Manipur would not be compromised while finalising the Naga peace accord.

The Centre has been talking to the NSCN (IM) since 1997, when it signed a ceasefire agreement. In 2015, the talks got a new lease of life after RN Ravi, the Centre’s interlocutor, signed a “framework agreement” with the rebel outfit.