The islands of St Kitts and Nevis were originally settled by Indians from South America. Although France and, to a lesser extent, Spain squabbled over possession throughout the 16th century, by 1623, the UK had prevailed and set about cultivating sugar on plantations worked by large numbers of slaves.It was not until September 1983 that the islands became an independent state within the Commonwealth. Since then, the dominant issues for the nation have been the relative positions of the two islands of St Kitts & Nevis. The possibility of a merger with other Leeward Islands and the Virgin Islands has been debated, as has the growing problem of drug trafficking, in which St Kitts & Nevis, like most small Caribbean islands, has become involved. The people of Nevis are themselves deeply split, roughly between the population of the southern towns, which favour independence, and the rest of the island, which does not. Were Nevis to become independent, it would be the world's smallest sovereign state after the Vatican, which naturally gives rise to concerns about its economic viability.Commercialisation has not yet taken over and travellers will enjoy the easygoing, quiet way of life of the local people which remains almost unspoiled. The exotically beautiful island of St. Kitts seems to embody a kind of lush tropical paradise usually associated with the South Pacific. The atmosphere here is palpably luxuriant. It is an intoxicating blend of sunlight, sea, air and fantastically abundant vegetation. At the centre of St. Kitts stands the spectacular, cloud-fringed peak of Mount Liamuiga (pronounced Lee-a-mweega), a dormant volcano covered by a dense tropical forest.