The government may be rethinking on air force chief Air Chief Marshal NAK Browne’s upcoming visit to China.
Defence minister AK Antony on Monday played down the controversy created by the government virtually calling off Browne’s China tour late September, saying the chief was free to travel wherever he was invited.
The minister’s comments come a day after HT reported that New Delhi had cancelled Browne’s visit, signaling its reluctance to go into “diplomatic overdrive” to engage Beijing in the wake of increased Chinese aggression along the line of actual control (LAC).
“The IAF chief is going wherever he is invited and as per his wishes. He accepts invitations and goes,” Antony told reporters on the sidelines of the C-17 induction ceremony at Hindan, in an indication that the chief’s visit may still be possible.
The trip was proposed in the IAF chief’s annual foreign tour schedule, but final nod from ministry of external affairs is awaited.
Top sources said there was a view within the government that Browne should not visit China as there has been a flurry of visits by top Indian officials to Beijing, but few reciprocal visits.
HT had reported on Sunday that New Delhi was trying to stabilise bilateral ties, plagued by territorial disputes in the northern and eastern sectors.
Joint army exercises with China are on track — scheduled to be held in the Chengdu military region in November.
While external affairs minister Salman Khurshid, Antony and national security advisor Shivshankar Menon have already visited China this year, PM Manmohan Singh and commerce minister Anand Sharma are scheduled to visit separately towards year-end.