The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Atal back with Sikkim hope

Shanghai, June 27: Delhi hopes China will soon initiate steps on the question of recognition of Sikkim as part of India.

Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee today hinted as much, saying: “What we want to achieve (China’s recognition of Sikkim) will soon be achieved.”

China will make its position clear on the issue, as a key negotiator put it, “in the not too distant future — within a few months”. Talks at both official and political levels during Vajpayee’s China visit have convinced India that it may now be only a matter of time.

Even the agreement on border trade through Nathu-la is being seen as a stepping-stone toward China’s de jure acceptance of Sikkim’s 1975 accession to India. The agreement is an unmistakable indication that China has accepted Nathu-la as the border between the two countries and by extension, Sikkim as part of India.

Addressing Indian journalists at the end of his official visit to China, Vajpayee also sought to discount fears that the joint declaration signed by him and Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao compromised India’s traditional position on Tibet.

There was “nothing new and nothing was conceded”, Vajpayee said. India’s position on Tibet had “neither ambiguity nor inconsistency”.

An argument in support of the Indian position was that it closely resembled the US state department’s Tibetan Policy Act of 2002, which says that the US “recognises the Tibet Autonomous Region to be part of the People’s Republic of China”.

It also says that the US “encourages China and the Dalai Lama to hold substantive discussions aimed at resolution of differences at an early date, without preconditions”.

Indian negotiators were at pains to explain that this precisely has been India’s position and it has now been put in an official document. Like the US, India, too, wants the Tibetans to have “cultural and religious autonomy” from Beijing.

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