India to boycott Beijing Olympic ceremonies over PLA torchbearer

Qi Fabao, a PLA regiment commander, acted as one of 1,200 torchbearers. PHOTO: REUTERS

HONG KONG (BLOOMBERG) - India's top diplomat in Beijing will not attend 2022 Winter Olympics ceremonies after Chinese media reported that a People's Liberation Army soldier who took part in deadly clashes on the countries' Himalayan border participated in the torch relay.

The diplomatic boycott by India comes as the United States leads a separate one of this year's Olympics over alleged human rights abuses in China's western Xinjiang region and Hong Kong, making official attendance by heads of state and diplomats very political.

"It is indeed regrettable that the Chinese side has chosen to politicise an event like the Olympics," India's Ministry of External Affairs spokesman Arindam Bagchi told reporters. "I wish to inform that our chargé d'affaires of the Embassy of India in Beijing will not be attending the opening nor the closing ceremony of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics."

Qi Fabao, a PLA regiment commander who suffered a head injury when Chinese and Indian troops battled in hand-to-hand combat on the disputed Himalayan frontier in June 2020, acted as one of 1,200 torchbearers in a ceremonial relay this week, the Communist Party-backed Global Times reported.

Chinese media called Qi a hero and former editor-in-chief of Global Tims, Hu Xijin, said the decision to include the solider was a call for border peace.

The International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach said he was unaware of the details but that in the 2012 London Summer Games, a UK army veteran from Afghanistan participated in the torch relay.

The India-China border clash dramatically worsened ties between the world's two most populous nations. It left 20 Indian soldiers and at least four Chinese soldiers dead in the biggest escalation on the disputed frontier in decades.

India, which lost a border war with China in 1962, has long been wary of its wealthier neighbour, particularly since Beijing enjoys close investment, military and diplomatic ties with Pakistan, New Delhi's arch-foe.

China, on the other hand, is concerned about India's increasingly close ties with Western democracies, including its support for the strategic Quad grouping alongside the US, Australia and Japan, which Beijing views as an anti-China "clique".

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