Liang Guanglie, left, meets India's prime minister, Manmohan Singh, in New Delhi. (Photo/Xinhua)
India's media have blasted China's defense minister, Liang Guanglie, for giving US$900 cash gifts to the two local pilots who flew him from Mumbai to New Delhi.
Liang gave two red envelopes or "hongbao" containing the money in cash after his flight on Monday. The pilots were unaware that the envelopes contained money and believed them to be a token gift or memento offered by visiting dignitaries as a Chinese custom. They were shocked when they learned they contained 100,000 rupees. They did not feel it appropriate to return the money to Liang so they reported the gift to their superior and handed the cash over to the country's treasury.
JC Sharma, former secretary of India's Ministry of External Affairs, said the gift was highly inappropriate and was not a diplomatic norm to give cash gifts to functionaries, especially to uniformed officers. "The Chinese ambassador or military attache should have advised the minister that it is improper," Sharma said, according to Britain's Daily Mail.
Retired air force marshal PK Barbora also said he had never heard of such incident during his 40-year military career. The cash gift might be acceptable in China but in India officials may present small souvenirs as a gift but never cash, according to Taiwan's Central News Agency.
The gift sparked speculation as to the intentions of the Chinese government as it is considered hard to believe that no one knew of Liang's plan to give the red envelopes or that no one briefed him in advance.
Liang met his Indian counterpart AK Antony as well as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Sept. 4 and left the country on Thursday.
Liang Guanglie 梁光烈