NEW DELHI: In an apparent climb down from its stated position, India has decided to send a military delegation to China, minus the Indian Air Force (IAF) officer from Arunachal Pradesh, who was denied visa by Beijing.
Official sources said a scaled-down military delegation will leave for Beijing, unlike in the past, when New Delhi called off scheduled cross-border visits by official teams after China refused to issue visas to the natives of the north-eastern states.
Originally, a 30-member team of officers from the Integrated Defence Staff was scheduled to go on a four-day trip.
“A 15-member delegation will leave for China on Sunday,” sources told the Express, while remaining tight-lipped on the reasons behind New Delhi’s decision.
Sources, however, indicated that a blame game between the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) and the Ministry of Defence (MoD) ensued after the visa row became public.
Sources also said the MEA had claimed that the members of an official delegation visiting
China should be screened by the Union Cabinet Secretary and this practice was skipped by the MoD. But MoD officials, on their part, maintained that the issue had been mishandled by the MEA. Beijing had all along staked its claim over Arunachal Pradesh (often addressed as ‘Southern Tibet, by the Communist state) and it has repeatedly refused to issue visas to the natives of the state, claiming that they did not require passport and visa to travel to China.
The latest row between the two acrimonious neighbours erupted on Friday, following China’s refusal to issue visa to Group Captain M Panging, a resident of Arunachal and a member of the Indian delegation scheduled to visit the country.
Panging is also the Chief Operating Officer (COO) of the Tezpur-based squadron of Sukhoi-30MKI fighter jets, deployed with an eye on China.
Bilateral ties between the two Asian giants were pushed to the brink in 2010, after Beijing issued a stapled visa to Lt Gen B S Jaswal, the then head of the Northern Command, alleging that he presided over a disputed region.
There was a thaw in the cold vibes only in December last year, when the two nuclear-armed nations held their Annual Defence Dialogue after a two-year break.
According to well-known China watcher, Swaran Singh, the incident was a good example of the ‘disarray’ in the Indian establishment in facing the China issue.