China doesn’t want the democratic world to politicise the upcoming 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing. But the Communist country wants to annoy India by making a soldier, Qi Fabao, involved in the Galwan valley clash with the Indian Army last year as its pick for the torchbearer at the upcoming Games.
India announces diplomatic boycott of the Winter Olympics
India has announced a diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Winter Olympics. It described Beijing’s decision to pick Qi as the Olympic torchbearer as “regrettable”. India has said that its envoy will not attend the opening or closing ceremonies at the Games beginning on Friday in Beijing. New Delhi will send only one athlete to the event.
Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said, “It is indeed regrettable that the Chinese side has chosen to politicize an event like the Olympics… the Charge d’Affaires of the Embassy of India in Beijing will not be attending the opening or the closing ceremony of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics.”
The Russia angle
What you however need to understand is that India wasn’t keen on marking its diplomatic presence at the upcoming Beijing Winter Olympics.
India was however going to show namesake official presence at the Games out of mutual respect for Moscow. Russian President Vladimir Putin is going to visit China for the upcoming Winter Olympics. Therefore, despite all the hatred for China, India made an exception.
Russia, which has been totally isolated by the West, has been trying to play the role of a mediator between the two big Asian giants- India and China. India and Russia are old friends, which is why it maintains a good rapport with New Delhi. On the other hand, Russia and China do share a lot of contentious issues, but Moscow hasn’t been going after China because being already isolated by the US and the EU, it doesn’t want to lose access to another big economy.
Therefore, not sending a diplomatic representative would have been uncourteous and could have been perceived by the Russians as being snubbed by New Delhi.
However, when China announced its diabolical move of picking Qi Fabao as an Olympic torchbearer, India got a stick to beat China with. New Delhi immediately announced a diplomatic boycott. Now, New Delhi will tell Russia that it was cooperative in any case and was ready to resolve the ongoing military standoff with China, but Beijing is simply being hawkish here.
From a Russian perspective also, China is the one that has played spoilsport. India was going to send a diplomatic representative anyway, but it is China that disregarded Putin’s role as a mediator between New Delhi and Beijing. This is bound to widen the current differences between Russia and China.
India to benefit in the upcoming Quad meeting
China’s misadventure and India’s eventual decision to announce a diplomatic boycott are also bound to help the country in a high-level meeting of Quad Foreign Ministers likely to be held soon.
Had India shown diplomatic representation at the Beijing Winter Olympics, the other Quad nations could have grown averse to India’s anti-China commitments. But now, India is going to mark the least presence of all Quad nations in the upcoming Games.
India will send only one athlete at the upcoming Beijing Winter Olympics and the chief of India’s public broadcaster Prasar Bharti also announced that it “will not telecast live the Opening and Closing ceremonies of the Winter Olympics being held in Beijing”.
In fact, India’s stand has been already praised by American lawmakers, showing how India has managed to enhance its standing within Quad by boycotting the Winter Olympics.
Balancing good relations with Russia and also being a Quad member is not easy. It is, in fact, a display of top-notch diplomacy. But guess what, China’s little misadventure at the upcoming Winter Olympics has made this art of balancing much easier for India. New Delhi, therefore, gets the best of both worlds, while Beijing seems likely to get thrashed from all sides.