[The Asian Age] NEW DELHI, July 29: Army Chief Gen. Bikram Singh faced an awkward moment recently during his visit to China earlier this month when a Chinese PLA lady-officer of the rank of Colonel asked him some searching questions on the Indian stand on Arunachal Pradesh and the Tibetan cause.
The incident occurred just after Gen. Singh had completed his address at the Chinese National Defence University at Beijing. Gen. Singh was only the second foreigner to be invited to speak at the Chinese NDU which is administered by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA).
The Army Chief was taken aback when a Chinese lady-officer raised the issue of Arunachal Pradesh. The Chinese regard parts of Arunachal Pradesh as Chinese territory and refer to it as South Tibet. In response, Gen. Singh promptly retorted: “As an Indian, I am of the view that Arunachal Pradesh is an integral part of India.”
But the Chinese lady-officer did not stop there. She also raised the issue of Tibet.
Gen. Singh replied that the Indian government does not allow any political activity on the Tibet issue from Indian soil and that this has been India’s consistent stand.
But the incident has raised several eyebrows. Defence-watchers say the Chinese PLA lady-officer could not have asked these questions without the directions of the Chinese military top brass since the question was posed to a top-ranking visiting foreign dignitary. But sources said the Chinese political and military leadership was extremely courteous and hospitable to Gen. Singh during the visit.
The Chinese are extremely sensitive on the issue of Arunachal Pradesh and protest the visit of every Indian political leader to the state.
India, however, regards Arunachal as its integral part and is substantially boosting defence infrastructure in the Northeast.
China is also equally sensitive on the Tibet issue even as India’s stand is that the Dalai Lama is an honoured guest but that no political activity on the Tibet issue will be allowed from Indian soil.
Incidentally, the Modi government was extremely keen that the visit of Gen. Singh to China take place on schedule even though Gen. Singh is to retire on July 31 this year.