Top India diplomat to boycott Beijing Games over torchbearer
India's top diplomat in Beijing will skip the Winter Games after a Chinese soldier involved in a deadly Himalayan skirmish took part in the Olympic torch relay, officials said Thursday.
Qi Fabao, a regiment commander for the People's Liberation Army, was among the troops present in 2020 during a high-altitude clash in the Galwan Valley, which is disputed between the world's two most populous nations.
On Wednesday he was revealed as one of 1,200 torchbearers for the Games by Chinese state media, which feted him as a "hero".
But his inclusion provoked consternation in India, and the foreign ministry said its senior representative at the Beijing embassy would sit out the opening and closing ceremonies as a result.
"It is indeed regrettable that the Chinese side has chosen to politicise an event like the Olympics," ministry spokesman Arindam Bagchi told a press briefing.
The Galwan Valley battle saw troops locked in hand-to-hand combat that left at least 20 Indians and four Chinese soldiers dead -- though it took Beijing eight months to acknowledge the casualties on its own side.
Both countries poured tens of thousands of extra troops into the area after the clash, and high-level talks late last year failed to ease tensions in the region.
Qi was wounded in the incident but appeared on Chinese state broadcaster CCTV at the end of last year and said he was "ready to return to the battlefield and fight again".
The Winter Olympics open on Friday but have been dogged by politics and Covid-19 fears.
The United States and several other nations are staging a diplomatic boycott of the Games over human rights concerns relating to the treatment of Uyghurs in the region of Xinjiang.
Skier Arif Mohammad Khan is India's lone entry in the Winter Games, with spectators limited by Covid-19 protocols.