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India, China Work Toward Ending Border Differences - 2004-07-27

India and China have ended two days of talks on a boundary dispute that has troubled relations between the two countries for decades.

The talks in New Delhi between Indian National Security Adviser J.N. Dixit and Chinese Executive Vice Foreign Minister Dai Bingguo were the third since January, when both countries vowed to speed up efforts to solve a long-standing boundary dispute.

Negotiations on the issue have made slow progress since they began in the 1980's, but political analysts say both countries are now ready for a compromise.

China claims 90,000 square kilometers of territory ruled by India in the east. India disputes Chinese rule over a 38,000 square kilometer Himalayan plateau in the west, known as Aksai Chin.

Sujit Dutta, a China specialist at New Delhi's Institute for Defense Studies and Analysis, says the Asian neighbors want to hammer out a deal. "The mood on both sides today is to settle them [disputes] as early possible and not to keep it pending for very long time," he says. "The two sides have a far better relationship today than earlier, the atmosphere is far more relaxed."

Political observers say a possible solution would involve China giving up its claims in India's eastern region, in return for Indian recognition of Chinese sovereignty over the Aksai Chin plateau. But the process is expected to involve more painstaking negotiations. Officials have made no comment on these reports.

Last year, the two countries reached a similar solution over another dispute. India acknowledged Tibet as a part of China in writing and then Beijing conceded Indian sovereignty over Sikkim. Beijing had previously referred to Sikkim as a separate country.

A brief border war between India and China in 1962 led to decades of hostility, but relations began to slowly improve in the 1980's. In the past year both sides have stepped up efforts to expand ties.

Mr. Dutta says the two countries want to set aside political disputes so they can benefit from each other's rapidly growing economies. "Trade is growing quite rapidly - there is also a Chinese interest in expanding their trade and investment in India and the overall region around India, open up new trade routes," he says. "India is also far more confident in terms of its manufacturing and software side to take advantage of the Chinese economic growth."

China and India are among the fastest growing economies in the world.