Indian Maoists offer ceasefire

NEW DELHI - OUTLAWED Maoists in eastern India declared on Saturday they were ready to hold peace talks with local government authorities but that 'mutual trust' was needed, a report said.

The ultra-leftists in the eastern state of Chhattisgarh issued the peace talks offer in a statement, according to the Press Trust of India.

The Maoist insurgency, which grew out of a peasant uprising in 1967, are active in more than half of India's 29 states and the rebels use a heavily forested region in Chhattisgarh as their headquarters.

Talks would 'only be possible if the (state) government reciprocates with proactive initiatives' and 'stops oppression of tribal groups', the Maoists said.

The state government must take 'steps to create an atmosphere for mutual trust to start the peace-talk process', Maoist spokesman Pandu added in the statement, the news agency reported.

The Maoist offer came two days after state Home Minister Nankiram Kanwar asked Maoists to come to the negotiating table.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has described the Maoist rebels as the single biggest threat to India's internal security.

The Maoists say they are fighting for the rights of neglected tribal people and landless farmers.

The eastern states of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhan and Orissa along with the southern state of Andhra Pradesh are the worst affected by Maoist violence, Indian authorities say.

New Delhi has long insisted that the rebels renounce violence before it will hold any talks.