China in a provocative move fielded Qi Fabao, the regimental commander of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), who was injured during the June 2020 clash in the Galwan Valley in eastern Ladakh, as a torchbearer for the Olympics Games Torch Relay, which led India to diplomatically boycott the opening ceremony of the games on Friday.
In New Delhi, External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Arindam Bagchi had described the Chinese action of honouring the commander as “regrettable”.
Top US lawmakers have also described the Chinese move as “shameful” and “deliberately provocative”. Republican Senator Jim Risch, a Ranking Member of the powerful US Senate Foreign Relations Committee, also said that the US will continue to support the sovereignty of India.
Asked at a media briefing here on Monday whether fielding Qi in the torch relay went against China’s view that Olympics should build bridges, Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said, “I want to stress that the torch bearers of the Beijing Winter Olympics are broadly representative and they meet relevant standards”.
“We hope relevant sides can view it in an objective and rational light,” he said.
To a follow-up question whether the move ignored India’s sensitivities, Zhao said, “what I want to say is the relevant sides can view the choice of the torch bearers in objective and rational light and don’t read too much into it from a political perspective”.
On Thursday, MEA Spokesperson Bagchi said that China has chosen to “politicise” an event like the Olympics and that the Charge d’Affaires of the Indian embassy in Beijing will not be attending the opening and the closing ceremonies of the Beijing Winter Games.
Twenty Indian Army personnel laid down their lives in the Galwan clashes that marked the most serious military conflicts between India and China in decades.
In February last year, China officially acknowledged that five Chinese military officers and soldiers were killed in the Galwan clashes with the Indian Army though it is widely believed that the death toll was higher.
The diplomats of the US, European Union and several western countries boycotted the opening ceremony to highlight their allegations of human rights violations against Uygur Muslims in China’s restive region of Xinjiang.