India Announces Diplomatic Boycott of Beijing Winter Olympics

India announced a diplomatic boycott of the Winter Olympics Games in Beijing because a People’s Liberation Army (PLA) soldier, involved in the June 2020 Galwan clashes, is going to be one of the torchbearers for the Winter Olympics Games in Beijing. The State broadcaster Doordarshan also announced it will not telecast the opening and closing ceremonies live, where India has one athlete, skier Arif Khan, participating.

This decision has come just ahead of the opening ceremony on Friday, i.e., 4 February 2022 after Chinese media reports identified Qi Fabao, a PLA regiment commander who received military honours for the Galwan clashes, where he was injured, as one of about 1,200 runners bearing the torch at a relay in Beijing. Fielding Qi Fabao by China’s and India’s first ever diplomatic boycott of Olympic Games, are likely to increase India-China tensions that have risen since PLA aggressions along the Line of Actual Control in April 2020.

In November 2021, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar had hosted a virtual Russia-India-China (RIC) trilateral meeting which issued a joint statement where they “expressed their support to China to host Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games.”

India continued to express support for the Beijing Olympics, even as, the U.S., the U.K., Canada, Australia, Japan, New Zealand, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark and Czech Republic boycotted the games due to human rights concerns in Xinjiang, Tibet, etc. and, Austria and Sweden boycotted the games due to COVID – 19 protocols.

If India, dealing with its own long list of problems with China and a continuing standoff along the Line of Actual Control, had initially planned to not involve itself in the politics surrounding the games, Beijing’s torch relay changed that calculus.

Meanwhile Russian President Vladimir Putin, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan, Presidents of Central Asian republics Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan are due to attend the opening ceremony on Friday.

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