The Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan less than 48 hours after Christmas in 1979. Political dimension of erstwhile USSR’s brazen political and diplomatic/military bravado/practice of 12 yearly cyclic military intervention (Hungary-1956, Czechoslovakia-1968) was viewed with agony and anguish by the entire world. Western powers led by the USA chose to display their disgust by mixing sports with politics.
The USA led boycott of the 1980 Moscow Olympics (19th July-3rd August) was joined by 65 other nations. It might not be out of place that India won the Hockey Gold Medal against a weakened opposition defeating Spain.
Winter Olympics are due to be held in China at Beijing (4th Feb-22nd Feb) followed by Paralympics in March. The USA has once again led the boycott albeit with a difference. While the athletes will participate, official delegations of the USA and its ‘friendly’ countries will not join the festivities.
Russian President Putin is scheduled to join President Xi during the opening ceremony of the games.
Primary reason for the US boycott is the ongoing US-China race for supremacy fuelled by COVID-19 spread in the entire globe, Taiwan and Ukraine crisis. The US with more than 8,00,000 COVID-19 deaths leads the official tally of COVID related casualties.
Although actual reasons as enunciated by US state department for boycotting winter Olympics reads; “Ongoing Genocide and Crimes against Humanity in Xinjiang and other Human Rights Abuses.” In the recently held virtual meet of democracies by POTUS, India supported US stand against China on genocide and human rights abuse but declined to join Olympic boycott. Recently held trilateral meeting of China, India and Russia foreign ministers must have discussed the issue. China ‘might’ have conveyed its satisfaction to India for refusing to join the US led diplomatic boycott of the Olympics.
China and Russia have not taken kindly to the recently signed AUKUS treaty. Russia has termed the QUAD, a four nation treaty of which India is a member along with USA, Japan and Australia, as a Military Alliance. While China and Russia have issues between themselves, neither country appreciates growing US-India bonhomie.
China and Russia are not alone in challenging the AUKUS treaty. Powerful NATO member France is equally miffed, although for different reasons. To express its annoyance with the USA and UK, France is participating in the winter Olympics. USA continues to raise the stakes by promulgating Uighur Forced Labour Protection act already signed by POTUS.
An extremely important, pertinent and diplomatically sensitive issue that emerges is “What will be the level of India’s diplomatic participation?” Will it be led by a ‘Babu’ of MEA or the Foreign Minister or even the PM himself, if he receives an invite from Xi? Recently appointed ambassador to China might be the first choice.
All leaders, without exception, voice their views in public of not mixing sports with politics but behind the curtain politics and sports events make a volatile cocktail.
Above views are notwithstanding the fact that India will be represented at winter olympics by the sole skier from J&K. Even that might be symbolic.
Chinese state controlled media have admired the Indian stand. Quote from the official media said; “India's behaviour toward the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympic Games embodies that New Delhi retains its strong diplomatic and strategic autonomy.” China's state-run media Global Times in an opinion piece following the Russia-India-China (RIC) foreign ministers meeting stated that India’s support for Beijing Winter Olympic Games shows “it is not a natural US ally.”
Hopefully the OMICRON variant will not do the same to the Winter Olympics, what COVID-19 did to the Summer Olympics?
About The Author
Gp Capt. Tej Prakash Srivastava has served in Iraq and is a graduate of both DSSC and AWC. He was Directing Staff at DSSC and Chief Instructor at College of Air Warfare. He Served at Air HQ, commanded a MiG-21 Sqn and headed the IAF establishment of Strike Corps during 'Operation Parakram'. He has authored a book titled 'Profligate Governance – Implications for National Security'. He has written extensively on international and strategic affairs and Defence Procurement Procedures. The IAF officer graduated from the NDA in June 1970 and trained at AFA with 107th Pilots Course. He can be reached at Email: [email protected]