India announced a diplomatic boycott of the Winter Olympics on Thursday after China selected a military commander involved in a deadly border clash between the two nations as one of its torchbearers.
India’s Ministry of External Affairs announced the decision with a statement from spokesman Arindam Bagchi hours before the opening ceremony marking the official start of the Beijing Games.
“It is indeed regrettable that the Chinese side has chosen to politicize an event like the Olympics,” Bagchi told reporters at a news conference in New Delhi on Thursday.
Bagchi said that India's senior envoy would not attend Friday's opening ceremony nor the Games' closing ceremony at Beijing's Bird's Nest. India’s public broadcaster Prasar Bharat subsequently announced that it won't televise coverage of either ceremony.
India's lone athlete at the Games — Alpine skier Arif Khan — will still participate.
Who is Qi Fabao?
Col. Qi Fabao, a regimental commander in China’s People’s Liberation Army, was one of 1,200 torchbearers who participated in the three-day torch relay leading up to Friday's ceremony. He carried the torch on Wednesday and was featured on Chinese state TV coverage of the relay.
Qi led his forces in a deadly 2021 border clash with India that claimed 20 Indian and four Chinese lives. The battle was part of a two-year conflict between the two countries. The Washington Post reports the two sides have held 14 rounds of talks to settle the conflict that remains ongoing. Qi's torch run and India's boycott threaten to ramp up tensions.
The United States, Canada, Britain and Australia are among countries that previously announced a diplomatic boycott of the Games, citing China's record on human rights. Bagchi did not address whether its own boycott would align with others. None of the boycotting nations withdrew from competing in the Olympics.