Fri, Sep 07, 2012 - Page 6 News List

PRC defense chief commits protocol gaffe in India visit

AFP, NEW DELHI

China’s defense minister caused a diplomatic headache during his trip to India by offering nearly US$2,000 as a tip to two air force pilots who flew him from Mumbai to New Delhi, reports said yesterday.

Chinese Minister of Defense General Liang Guanglie (梁光烈), who was to leave India yesterday after a four-day tour, handed over the cash in two envelopes after the flight in stormy monsoon weather on Monday evening, the Hindu newspaper reported.

“The Chinese defense minister was pleased with the way the IAF [Indian Air Force] pilots handled the flight and flew him down to the capital smoothly,” the newspaper said, citing anonymous sources.

The cash gift of 100,000 rupees (US$1,800) broke Indian protocol rules, which forbid crews from accepting money, the Hindu and other newspapers reported.

The money will be deposited in the government treasury.

“Officials were inclined to believe that the visiting minister was probably not well briefed on the protocol and customs followed in such situations in India,” the Hindu added.

After two days of meetings with India’s army chiefs, defense minister and prime minister, Liang did some sightseeing on Wednesday and was photographed out of his army uniform and looking casual in a baseball cap and a pink T-shirt.

At one point he posed for a photo hugging the Iron Pillar of Delhi at the Qutub Minar, a UNESCO world heritage site in the capital, before traveling on to India’s monument to love, the Taj Mahal in Agra.

The centerpiece of the official trip was a decision on Tuesday by India and China to resume joint military exercises after a four-year gap.

Bilaterla relations have been prickly owing to a disputed border, wariness over their military build-up and competition for influence.

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