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India, China begin withdrawing troops from border

NEW DELHI: India and China withdrew troops Monday from a disputed area of the Himalayas after settling a border dispute, officials said, as the giant nuclear-armed neighbors took steps to ease tensions.
Foreign ministry spokesman Syed Akbaruddin said Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid would travel to Beijing as scheduled this Thursday where he would “discuss bilateral, regional and global issues of concern.”
“The governments of India and China have agreed to restore the status quo along Line of Actual Control (LAC),” he told AFP, adding that talks between military officials were held to work out the logistics.
More than three weeks after Chinese troops were reported to have set up camp nearly 20 kilometers (12 miles) inside a region claimed by India, both sides reached an agreement late Sunday after a meeting between border commanders.
An Indian army source said some 50 Chinese soldiers had withdrawn from the Siachen glacier in the remote Ladakh region and dismantled their tents close to an Indian military airstrip.
The withdrawal came after Khurshid hinted that he could cancel his trip to Beijing if the dispute was not settled. The row had also cast a cloud over a planned visit to New Delhi by new Chinese Premier Li Keqiang later this month.
Beijing’s foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying declined to give details when asked about the border situation at a regular briefing Monday, saying only that the two sides “made positive progress” on the issue.
“Following the standoff incident at the border area, China and India, bearing in mind the larger interests of bilateral relations, have taken a cooperative and constructive attitude,“she said.
Both sides had “exercised restraint,” Hua added.
“As far as I know, the friendly consultations between the relevant departments of the two countries have made positive progress,” she told reporters.
The spokeswoman also said China was ready to work with the Indian side “at an early date to seek a mutually acceptable and fair solution to the border question.”
Relations have improved in recent years but they are still dogged by mutual suspicion — a legacy of a 1962 border war in which India got a bloody nose.
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 kilometers across the contested boundary are common but it is rare for either country to set up camps far inside disputed territory.
Khurshid had said it was important to avoid “destroying” years of progress made between the neighbors, while India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had also stressed his desire to avoid inflaming tensions.
But Sujit Dutta, a professor at the Jamia Millia Islamia University in New Delhi who specializes in Indo-Chinese relations, said further such disputes were inevitable.
“The latest standoff was more serious than the usual cross-border incidents. The present issue has been resolved but such disputes will flare up again,” he told AFP.
Beijing’s new leadership is making a concerted effort to challenge India’s territorial assertions, he said.
“India should not assume that the dispute has ended. The fact is the dispute has reached another level at a time when the new Chinese leadership is determined to contest India’s territorial claims,” said Dutta.