China's defence minister causes stir over cash gift to pilots in India

Defence Minister Liang Guanglie finds himself in a protocol pickle over 100,000-rupee tip

PUBLISHED : Friday, 07 September, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 07 September, 2012, 4:26am

China's defence minister caused a diplomatic headache on his trip to India this week by giving two air force pilots a 100,000-rupee (HK$13,900) tip after they flew him through stormy weather from Mumbai to New Delhi, Indian newspapers reported yesterday. axing

General Liang Guanglie , who headed to Laos yesterday after wrapping up a five-day trip to India, handed over the cash in two sealed envelopes, each with 50,000 rupees, on Monday evening after the flight, according to The Hindu, based in New Delhi. The newspaper said the cash gift broke Indian protocol, which forbids air force crews from accepting money.

"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 said.

The paper quoted a source as saying that it is a normal custom for visiting dignitaries to present mementos to aircraft crew as a token of their appreciation for the services rendered to them and their delegation, but money is never offered.

The money was to be deposited in the government treasury.

Professor Ni Lexiong , director of a research centre on sea power and defence policy at the Shanghai University of Political Science and Law, said: "If someone should be blamed for the incident, I think it might be the responsibility of [Chinese] military officers of the Chinese embassy in India to brief Liang about protocols and taboos."

But Ni added that many officers in the People's Liberation Army were used to giving each other cash gifts for events such as weddings and funerals.

Admiral Fei Hung-po, Taiwan's former deputy chief of general staff, said there was also a cash-bonus system in the island's army, aimed at "strengthening friendship between leaders and soldiers".

"But such practice is only seen between leaders and subordinates under their command. It's not applicable to external affairs," he said.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei refused to comment on the cash gift, saying: "I am not aware of the specifics." The Ministry of Defence did not reply to queries.

Liang was joined on his India trip by a 23-member delegation.