The two highest-ranking senators dealing with foreign policy in the United States (US), across party lines, have condemned China’s decision to put an army chief involved in the Galwan clashes as a torchbearer for the Winter Olympics, and welcomed India’s decision not to send a diplomatic representative to the opening ceremony of the Games on Friday.
Separately, the U.S. State Department reiterated its concerns over China’s ongoing attempts to “intimidate its neighbors,” saying it stands with its friends, partners and allies in the Indo-Pacific.
Bob Menendez, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and among the most powerful voices on US foreign policy in Washington DC, tweeted: “I welcome India to participate in the diplomatic boycott of the Beijing Olympics. We stand with all countries that reject the CCP’s heinous human rights violations and cold-blooded efforts to make # Olympics2022 a political victory shot. “
The United States, along with Britain, Canada and Australia, has diplomatically boycotted the Olympics to protest China’s human rights abuses in Xinjiang. However, their respective national sports contingents participate in the Games.
Jim Risch, the rank and file member of the Senator Foreign Relations Committee, tweeted: “It is a shame that Beijing chose a torchbearer for # Olympics2022, which is part of the military command that attacked India in 2020 and implements #country killings against Uighurs. will continue to support the freedoms of the Uighurs and the sovereignty of India. “
Menendez is a Democratic senator from New Jersey and is currently involved in drafting a major sanctions package against Russia should it invade Ukraine. Risch is a Republican senator from Idaho.
On Thursday, formulating India’s position, Foreign Ministry spokesman Arindam Bagchi said, “It is really regrettable that China has chosen to politicize an event like the Olympics. I would like to inform that our Chargé d’affaires from the Embassy of India will not participate at the opening or closing ceremony of the Beijing Winter Olympics. “
While the US diplomatic boycott of the Olympics is driven by its stance on human rights violations in China, and India’s decision was triggered by the Galwan-related decision, the fact that both senators have made strong statements is seen as a signal that when it comes to the relationship with India, especially vis-à-vis China, there is a clear bipartisanity in an otherwise domestically divided American political landscape. It also de facto reflects the institutional position of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, an influential Republican and former presidential candidate, said he sided with India, and his office tweeted that China’s decision was “another outrageous example of # CCP’s blatant politicization of # Beijing2022. Their decision to select a soldier who took part in an ambush in 2020 against Indian troops as a torchbearer is shocking and deliberately provocative. “
On Thursday, when asked about China’s move and India’s subsequent decision, Foreign Ministry spokesman Ned Price said: “When it comes to the broader issue of the border situation between India and China, we continue to support direct dialogue and a peaceful solution of border. Disputes We have previously expressed our concern about Beijing’s pattern of ongoing attempts to intimidate its neighbors. As we always do, we stand with friends, we stand with partners and allies to promote our common prosperity, security and values. in the Indo-Pacific. “
The State Department’s reiteration of support also comes at a time when many have expressed concern over the impact of rising tensions between the United States and Russia on U.S. relations with India, given New Delhi’s close ties to Moscow. Price said categorically that these tensions have not affected US ties with India. “We have a stand-alone relationship with India that stands on its own merits.”
Shortly after a military stand-off began between India and China in the summer of 2020 at the Line of Actual Control in Ladakh, as a result of Chinese aggression and its violation of existing border agreements, Indian and Chinese troops were involved in a bloody clash in Galwan the night before. on June 15 of the same year. Twenty Indian soldiers were killed. While China has confirmed that at least four of its soldiers died, unofficial figures put numbers at a much higher number. A recent Australian media report, based on a survey of Chinese social media accounts and conversations with Chinese bloggers, claimed that at least 38 Chinese soldiers had died in the clash when they drowned in the Galwan River.
Kyle J Gardner, author of the recently published The Frontier Complex: Geopolitics and the Making of the India-China Border 1846-1962, comments on the controversy and expression of American support for India and non-resident researcher at the Sigur Center for Asian Studies at George Washington University, said it was both “remarkable” and “immediate” how lasting the conflict in Galwan had remained for both India and China.
“China’s decision to highlight a wounded soldier from the conflict as a torchbearer in the Olympic Games indicates a new willingness to emphasize a border conflict that the country had previously minimized. While the diplomatic boycotts from the United States and India are largely symbolic and for various reasons “They emphasize the much-discussed ‘convergence of interests’ that the United States and India see in relation to China,” he said.
Frank O’Donnell, deputy director of the South Asia program at the Stimson Center, agreed. He said: “These statements from the United States show that a strong commitment to the strategic partnership between the United States and India remains one of the few foreign policy issues where there is a lasting bipartisan consensus.” He added that the remarks of both the administration as well as senior leaders of both parties also show that the fear of the United States being distracted from the Indo-Pacific theater due to the Ukraine crisis is misplaced.