One of China’s picks for a torchbearer is an army commander who clashed with India
China has frequently denounced what it calls the politicization of the Olympics, including a diplomatic boycott the United States has tried to organize. Yet China’s selection of one of the first of 1,200 torchbearers struck a nationalist note: a colonel who fought Indian forces on the western edge of the Himalayas.
Colonel Qi Fabao, regimental commander of the Chinese army, carried the torch on Wednesday, the first day of his three-day tour of Beijing and surrounding areas. He suffered a four-inch gash on his forehead in deadly border skirmishes with India in 2020.
The selection of Colonel Qi by China was quickly denounced by the Indian government, which declared Thursday evening that the senior diplomat from its embassy in Beijing would not attend the opening or closing ceremonies of the Olympics.
“It is indeed regrettable that the Chinese side has chosen to politicize an event like the Olympics,” Arindam Bagchi, spokesman for the Foreign Ministry in New Delhi, told a press conference.
He did not say whether Indian officials might attend any other events during the Olympics, nor was he asked whether India would support the diplomatic boycott of the Games organized by the United States.
India’s public broadcaster, Doordarshan, announced later Thursday evening that it would not be broadcasting the opening or closing ceremonies either.
India has acknowledged 20 dead and China has acknowledged four dead in the fighting that took place in the Galwan Valley. China then awarded the honorary title of Frontier Defense Hero to Colonel Qi and the four fallen Chinese soldiers.
Thomas Bach, president of the International Olympic Committee, answered a question about Colonel Qi at a press conference in Beijing on Thursday by noting that a wounded British veteran who had fought in Afghanistan had been allowed to carry the torch to the opening of the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.
But Colonel Qi’s comparison to a Western soldier who lost both his legs fighting Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan might not go down well in India either. India has supported the Afghan government for many years against the Taliban.