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Thursday, 28 June, 2001, 16:30 GMT 17:30 UK
China, India in fresh border talks
Jaswant Singh and Li Peng at a meeting earlier this year
There have been signs of a general thaw in relations
By Jill McGivering in Delhi

Officials from India and China have met as part of an ongoing process to resolve a long-running border dispute between the two countries.

India and China share a border more than 4,000km long (2,500 miles) - and they have been arguing about its demarcation for several decades.

Just as the two countries seemed to be forging a closer alliance, disagreement on the new Bush administration in Washington has thrown it into disarray

But this latest round of talks came soon after signs of a possible breakthrough.

At a meeting in November, both sides exchanged maps setting out their view of the least controversial section, a 600km middle stretch.

These maps are likely to have formed the basis of discussion.

Last year there were signs too of a general thaw in relations, which could make real progress possible.

Leaders on both sides were expressing a new public willingness to sort out their differences.

China's anger about India's nuclear tests seemed to have subsided, top-level visits were back on track and both sides seemed determined to work towards a more positive relationship.

Closer alliance

For China, India's fast-growing domestic market is a target for cheaply produced Chinese goods.

Many in India are eager to learn from China's example, seeing bilateral projects and closer economic co-operation as a way of helping India to develop its own manufacturing sector.

Strategically there could be gains on both sides as well. India has long blamed China for supplying arms to Pakistan.

But with India and Pakistan about to embark on a landmark summit between its two leaders, these suspicions may become less acute.

For China, a strong Indian ally could create a powerful regional axis to counterbalance the global dominance of the United States.

US relations

But just as the two countries seemed to be forging a closer alliance, disagreement on the new Bush administration in Washington has thrown it into disarray.

When President George W Bush announced his controversial plans for a missile defence shield, India welcomed it heartily and instantly.

China, on the other hand, was clearly opposed - and its own relations with the new US administration seem to have deteriorated as markedly as India's have improved.

This difference in approach seems to have opened up fresh suspicions about loyalties and priorities.

And although the border does seem to be one key area of dispute on which top-level commitment to progress has been made, this overall damage to the relationship could threaten the pace.

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See also:

15 Jan 01 | South Asia
Hopes for China-India border talks
09 Jan 01 | South Asia
Li Peng arrives for India tour
09 Jan 01 | Media reports
Indian press cool on China ties
11 Jan 01 | South Asia
China and India: Suspicions remain
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