China cancels Kalam visit to aviation body, sparks speculation

The last-minute change in former President A P J Abdul Kalam's scheduled visit to China's top aviation body here sparked off speculation whether the cancellation was anyway connected to the the Communist giant's new stealth fighter, which was launched a day earlier.

"Missile man" Kalam, 82, an acclaimed aviation engineer, came on his first ever visit to China on November 1, when official media flashed the pictures of the stealth fighter, J-31, on its 11-minute flight test.

Chinese officials state that it is an improvised and lighter version of the J-20, launched about two years ago, making China the second country after the US to acquire the stealth bomber. Its launch aroused curiosity in the neighbouring countries, including India.

Kalam who came here on the invitation of Beijing Forum, an intellectual body sponsored by the Chinese government, was told about the cancellation of his scheduled visit to Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC), on November 2, a few hours before he was scheduled to go there to view a detailed presentation.

Instead, he was taken to the China Academy of Space Technology (CAST), the premier body in-charge of the country's burgeoning space programme, where its top officials evinced interest in collaboration for a space solar power mission with India.

While Chinese officials were tightlipped about the programme, analysts wonder whether AVIC wanted to avoid exposure of J-31 to India's top defence and aviation specialist, Kalam, who was closely connected with top Indian bodies like the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).

Kalam made good of his visit to CAST, where he was given a presentation about China's successful manned spaceflights. He was invited to teach at Peking University also.

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