Cancellation of Kalam's visit to China's AVIC sparks rumours

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 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, 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 tight lipped 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).

Not someone to complain, Kalam made good of his visit to CAST, where he was given a detailed presentation about China's successful manned spaceflights, including the one this year, sending its first woman astronaut to the space station being built to rival Russia's Mir, currently being jointly manned with the US.

Kalam also highlighted the advances made by India in space technology specially in putting heavier satellites into orbit.

ISRO is also working on its Mars Orbiter Mission set for next year.
During his visit to China, which is the first by Kalam, he was invited to teach at the Peking university besides mooting the idea of collaboration in space solar power mission.
Kalam left for India yesterday after a three-day visit.

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