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New Delhi: India has decided not to send its invited diplomatic personnel to the opening and closing ceremonies of the Winter Olympics in Beijing after a Chinese military officer, injured at the Galwan encounter with Indian troops, participated in the official Olympic torch relay.
A day after Chinese state media reported on the People’s Liberation Army officer, Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said, “It is indeed regrettable that the Chinese side has chosen to politicise an event like Olympics”.
He announced that India’s top diplomatic personnel at the embassy would not honour the invitation from the host. “I wish to inform that the Charge d’Affaires of the Embassy of India in Beijing will not be attending the opening or the closing ceremony of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics,” he said. The 24th edition of the Winter Olympics will be inaugurated on Friday, February 4.
State-run tabloid, The Global Times had reported that Qi Fabao, a PLA regiment commander who sustained a head injury in the Galwan violent encounter with India in June 2020, took part in the Winter Olympic torch relay on Wednesday.
It added that the Qi had taken the flame from Wang Meng, China’s four-time short track speed skating champion, at the Winter Olympic park on Wednesday. “When passing the flame, Wang and Qi made military salutes to each other,” wrote GT.
In June 2020, Indian and Chinese troops clashed in hand-to-hand combat at Galwan valley in eastern Ladakh, where the latter had entered beyond the traditionally accepted alignment of the Line of Actual Control. India had acknowledged that 20 Indian soldiers had lost their lives. However, China took more than eight months to concede any casualties in the Galwan encounter. This had been the first military fatality in a violent clash at the India-China border in four decades.
Following the Galwan encounter, there have been several rounds of military talks, which have led to disengagement at Galwan and other areas. However, the stand-off continues in a couple of friction points like Hot Springs and Depsang, with Beijing showing no signs of withdrawing from all the points intruded in eastern Ladakh.
Last July, one of the four PLA soldiers officially acknowledged to have died at Galwan was bestowed the Chinese Communist Party’s July 1 medal to mark its 100th anniversary.
To mark the Lunar New Year on Tuesday, China’s state-run CCTV began a broadcast a documentary on PLA soldiers stationed at the India-China border. According to reports, the documentary included interviews with relatives of the Chinese soldiers who died at Galwan, as well as visuals of Chinese PLA troops on their patrols in eastern Ladakh.
India had, so far, refused to join the western countries’ diplomatic boycott of the winter Olympics over human rights concerns. Along with the United States, Denmark, Canada, Japan, the United Kingdom, and Australia had announced that they would not send any diplomatic personnel to the opening ceremony.
China had responded that the Olympic games were “not a stage for political posturing and manipulation”.
India had even publicly endorsed China’s organisation of the Winter Olympic games at the trilateral meeting with the Russian and Chinese foreign ministers in November 2021. “The Ministers expressed their support to China to host Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games,” said the joint statement.