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China, India Appear to Settle Dispute Over Sikkim

After years of diplomatic standoffs, China and India this week appeared to be settling a dispute over the region of Sikkim. But there are indications China may be backing away from resolving the issue.

At this week's Asian leader's summit in Bali, Indonesia, Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao met with his Indian counterpart, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, and appeared to settle the dispute over the border region of the Himalayan state of Sikkim.

Mr. Wen reportedly told Mr. Vajpayee that China has dropped the description of Sikkim as a "separate country" on its foreign-ministry Web site.

Indian officials said the meeting was unusually warm. Indian Foreign Secretary Kanwal Sibal said that Beijing conceding the Himalayan state of Sikkim to New Delhi's sovereignty was a marked turn for the better.

But the Chinese Foreign Ministry appears to be backing down from recognizing Sikkim as a part of India. When asked by reporters at a briefing in Beijing about whether China is close to resolving the dispute, the foreign ministry was vague.

Chinese spokeswoman Zhang Qiyue was somewhat dismissive, saying the issue was "left over from history" and would need to be "gradually solved".

Asia-Pacific Studies Professor Sun Shihai, of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, points out that this issue is key to benefiting the economies of both countries.

He says if this matter can be solved economic relations between the border areas will improve, benefiting both nations.

China has never recognized India's annexation of Sikkim in 1975. The two countries have multiple border disagreements in the Kashmir and Tibet areas, which led to a brief but bloody war in 1962.