India’s diplomatic boycott of the Winter Olympics isn’t about China’s human rights violations

Torching tensions.
Torching tensions.
Image: cnsphoto via Reuters
We may earn a commission from links on this page.

India’s diplomatic envoy is giving the Beijing Winter Olympics a miss.

He’s not the only diplomat to be asked by authorities back home to not attend the Games. Countries like the US, Australia, Britain, and Canada, have announced a diplomatic boycott, citing China’s human rights violations, specifically against the Muslim population in the Xinjiang province. Others such as New Zealand, Austria, Slovenia, Sweden, and the Netherlands are citing covid risks as the reason.

India’s reason, however, is one man in particular: Qi Fabao.

Yesterday (Feb. 3), Fabao was among around 1,200 Winter Olympic torchbearers. Heralded as a hero, he was a People’s Liberation Army regimental commander involved in the June 2020 Galwan clash with Indian soldiers. The army officer was wounded in the skirmish and received military honours last year.

Twenty Indian soldiers were killed during the seven-hour conflict. China didn’t disclose its death toll, but US intelligence services peg it at upwards of 40.

“It is indeed regrettable that the Chinese side has chosen to politicise an event like the Olympics,” the Indian ministry of external affairs’ spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said. “The Charge d’Affaires of the Embassy of India in Beijing will not be attending the opening or closing ceremony of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics.”

India at the Winter Olympics in Beijing

Russian president Vladimir Putin and Pakistan’s prime minister Imran Khan will be among the top global leaders in attendance at the opening ceremony at 8pm local time today (Feb. 4). India anyway had no political representation, but Acquino Vimal, its top diplomat in Beijing, was set to attend. That is no longer the case now.

State broadcaster Doordarshan, too, has refused to telecast the opening and closing ceremonies live.

However, India won’t be entirely absent. It has one athlete competing: A 31-year-old Kashmiri skier, Mohammad Arif Khan.