A senior military officer has called on People's Liberation Army troops stationed in Tibet to 'stay absolutely loyal and reliable' to the central leadership. Central Military Commission vice-chairman General Guo Boxiong , on an inspection trip to the remote region ahead of a key party congress, urged increased ideological education for the armed forces to maintain ideological and political consistency between the army and the Communist Party's central leadership, Xinhua reported. The report did not specify the date of the visit, the exact location, or who accompanied Guo to the Himalayan region. 'In the run up to the party's 18th national congress, more efforts should be made to ensure the army's absolute obedience, loyalty and reliability to the party, aside from high solidarity, security and stability among the troops,' Guo was quoted as telling officers he met. He stressed that all members of the army should adhere to the party's central leadership, through the commission and its chairman Hu Jintao , so as to better foster a sense of readiness, the report said. Guo urged the armed forces to step up training and prepare themselves for combat-related tasks, and to assist local governments in maintaining social stability. Macau-based veteran PLA watcher Antony Wong Dong said yesterday the party congress was obviously the most crucial political event and 'it's no wonder Guo has made such a visit to ensure social and political stability in the remote area just months ahead of the meeting'. Wong said that Sino-Indian relations around the border region had also grown more tense recently and ethnic tensions in Tibet, highlighted by a series of self-immolations, could also have been reasons for the visit. A Tibetan set himself on fire after expressing his support for the Dalai Lama in Lhasa on July 7, Radio Free Asia reported. The Tibetan man was subsequently taken to a nearby hospital and his condition was not known, it said. Around 40 Tibetans have self-immolated in Tibet and Tibetan-populated areas of nearby provinces since early 2009, with many of them dying or suffering serious injuries. Ethnic tensions have been high in Tibet since rioting in Lhasa, the regional capital, in March 2008 that saw nearly 20 people killed and the widespread destruction of property. Speculation has been rife that the PLA is not as firmly behind the central leadership as once thought, particularly after the downfall of ex-Chonqging party boss Bo Xilai, who reportedly has many friends among the top brass, in March. Guo has been one of the busiest top military officers over the past few months, paying many visits to troops in regions such as Chengdu , Beijing, Shaanxi and Xinjiang to shore up morale.