The visit was supposed to be an opportunity for 100 young Indians from different parts of the country to get a glimpse of China and project the soft power of an emerging, young India. Instead it turned out to be an embarrassment for the country and disturbing for many of the women delegates travelling in the group.
The youth team, headed by officials from the ministry of youth affairs and sports, were in Beijing on a 10-day visit at the invitation of the Chinese government and spent time in Beijing, city of Hohhot in Inner Mongolia and Shenyang in northeast China before returning to India on Saturday night.The delegation headed out of New Delhi on the night of July 11 and took the flight out from Beijing on July 21.
Members were selected from political parties like the Congress, Samajwadi Party and BJP and universities and youth organisations from across the country. Many members – and those chastised for misbehaving -- were from North Indian states.
While travelling in Hohhot in Inner Mongolia, women were put in a separate bus after some of the men passed lewd comments about their fellow delegates, even making snide remarks about their ethnicity.
But it was also routine for a few to call out to Chinese women walking by as "chinkis" and let out the choicest vulgar adjectives about the clothes they wore.
About three days into the trip, few of them – some self-declared youth leaders of political parties from north Indian states – were made to give an assurance to Ministry secretary Nita Chowdhury that they will not misbehave.
Their immediate party bosses had to call them up from India to ask them to behave; Chowdhury threatened to cancel the tour if they didn’t fall in line.
But the problem didn’t end with the comments or separate buses; some male delegates, disgruntled that they were forced to travel separately, allegedly threatened girls from New Delhi that they would retaliate once back in India.
Earlier in Beijing, a Chinese waitress in a hotel was coaxed into feeding water melons to a youth leader from the ruling party of a north Indian state at the joyous occasion of his birthday. A cake was first demanded from the hotel. The hotel obliged by offering a water melon, which triggered a furore that the delegation had been insulted.
Many delegates threw tantrums at the lack of vegetarian options while eating, often embarrassing the Chinese minders.
Diplomats here were not willing to comment on record but said some of the youth were "penalised" for their behavior; they were not taken on a sight-seeing trip. Instructions were also given that those involved in fresh incidents would be dispatched home.
The misbehaviour raises questions about the procedure followed in selecting members for such delegations. For one, randomly selecting "youth leaders" from political parties is unlikely to ensure that a refined image of India is projected abroad.
The trip was mired in controversy from the beginning with China denying visa to a woman delegate from Arunachal Pradesh. As it turned out, that was just the beginning.