India's foreign minister hints may cancel China trip

NEW DELHI (AFP) - India's foreign minister has hinted he could cancel a planned trip to Beijing if no progress is made in resolving a row over an alleged incursion by Chinese troops deep inside Indian-claimed territory.

The reported Chinese infiltration across the disputed Himalayan border has strained ties between the nuclear-armed neighbours whose relations have long been chequered by mutual suspicion - a legacy of a 1962 border war.

"I can't say we have satisfaction (from Beijing) at this stage," said foreign minister Salman Khurshid who announced last week he would head for China on May 8 to discuss the standoff.

Speaking to Indian television channels while travelling to Iran on an official visit, Mr Khurshid said in news footage aired Saturday that New Delhi was "keeping channels of communications open".

The minister, who has declared both countries have a mutual interest in not allowing the dispute to "destroy" long-term progress in ties, said his trip to Beijing was still on.

But he suggested he might reconsider his travel plans if there is no progress in resolving the dispute.

India has not "reached a stage where we need to review that decision (to visit Beijing)", said Mr Khurshid, but added it would not be wise to use the word "certainty" in connection with his visit.

"We remain in the dialogue process, we hope the dialogue will be successful. As of now, I can't say that (dialogue) has been successful," he said.

The row is also casting a cloud over a planned visit to New Delhi by China's new premier Li Keqiang later this month.

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 row low-key, keen not to disrupt their booming bilateral trade.

India has called the incursion a "localised problem" and says it believes it is possible to resolve the problem peacefully.

Beijing has said both countries had the "capacity and wisdom" to defuse the row through "friendly consultation" but insist their troops have "not trespassed the line".

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