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India's PM Ends Groundbreaking Visit to China - 2003-06-27


India's Prime Minister is leaving China after a groundbreaking visit aimed at improving trade and ending a long-standing border dispute that flared into war back in the 1960's.

Chinese and Indian officials say the appointment of top-level envoys should speed the settlement of the difficult and complex border dispute that has tangled their relations for decades.

The two new envoys are India's national security advisor (Barjesh Mishra) and China's Vice Foreign Minster (Dai Bingguo). Before ending his China visit in Shanghai Friday, Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee called the dispute "vexing," and said the appointment of the envoys is important.

The two sides have held talks for years about where their shared 3,500 kilometer border should be placed.

Mr. Vajpayee also says that a dispute over the territory of Sikkim, sandwiched between the two giants, soon would be over now that China has agreed to allow border trade through the area. He says this will end a point of contention between Beijing and New Delhi.

China's Foreign Ministry says the Sikkim issue is been a problem for a long time.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Kong Quan says the problem will not be solved overnight and expressed the hope that the matter can be worked out "gradually."

India annexed Sikkim in 1975, but China has refused to recognize the area as Indian territory.

The two sides also signed several initiatives designed to increase trade, including easier visa rules so their citizens can travel back and forth.

On Thursday, Mr. Vajpayee called on the two nations to combine their strengths in the computing business. He noted China's computer manufacturing skills complimented India's strong software skills.

"If countries like India and China were to concentrate on a specific area of their technological advantage, it would benefit far more than competing across the spectrum," he said.

This is the first visit to China in a decade by an Indian Prime Minister. Both nations say the talks significantly improved relations between the two nuclear-armed neighbors which together account for one third of humanity.