India, China begin withdrawing troops from border

NEW DELHI (AFP) - India and China have started withdrawing troops from a disputed area in the Himalayas to resolve a row that has strained ties between the nuclear-armed neighbours, Indian officials said on Monday.

"Both sides reached an agreement on Sunday night after a meeting was held between border commanders. We will withdraw our troops and China will do the same," a senior Indian army official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

"The withdrawal process has begun," another senior army official added.

News of the withdrawal came after Indian Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid hinted that he could cancel a planned trip to Beijing from Wednesday if there was no resolution to the border dispute.

The spat had also cast a cloud over the build-up to a planned visit to New Delhi by new Chinese Premier Li Keqiang later this month.

Relations between the neighbours have improved in recent years but they are still dogged by mutual suspicion - a legacy of a 1962 border war.

The informal border separating China and India is known as the Line of Actual Control (LAC). While it has never been formally demarcated, the countries have signed two accords to maintain peace in frontier areas.

Small incursions of a few kilometres across the contested boundary are common but it is rare for either country to set up camps in disputed territory.

Both countries have been seeking to keep the dispute low-key, keen not to disrupt their booming bilateral trade.