'I don't want tension': Indian boxer beats China rival then offers belt back to heal border rift
An Indian boxer won a title fight against a Chinese opponent before offering to hand back the prize as a gesture of peace between the two nations which are locked in a territorial dispute in the Himalayas.
Vijender Singh beat Zulpikar Maimaitiali on points on Saturday to retain his WBO Asia Pacific super middleweight title and take his opponent’s WBO Oriental super middleweight belt.
After the unanimous verdict in Mumbai, Singh hugged Bollywood star Amitabh Bachchan and other celebrities before returning to the ring, taking the microphone and saying: “I don’t want this title. I will give it back to Zulpikar.”
He added: “I don’t want tension on the border. It’s a message of peace. That’s important.”
The gesture follows a stand-off in a remote frontier region beside the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan that has become increasingly tense. On Thursday, China demanded India immediately remove troops from the border, accusing it of building up troops and repairing roads along its side of the border next to the Indian state of Sikkim.
The neighbours share a 3,500km frontier, large parts of which are disputed. Indian officials say about 300 soldiers from either side are facing each other about 150 meters (yards) apart on the plateau.
The current standoff began on 16 June when a column of Chinese troops accompanied by construction vehicles and road-building equipment began moving south into what Bhutan considers its territory.
Bhutan, a small kingdom with close military and economic ties to India, requested assistance from Delhi, which sent forces to resist the Chinese advance.
To avoid escalation, frontline troops in the area do not generally carry weapons, and the Chinese and Indian troops reportedly clashed by “jostling”: bumping chests, without punching or kicking, in order to force the other side backwards.
At the heart of the dispute are different interpretations of where the “trijunction” – the point where the three countries’ borders meet – precisely lies. China argues its territory extends south to an area called Gamochen, while India says Chinese control ends at Batanga La, further to the north.
About 3,000 troops from both countries are reportedly stationed near Doka La , an area initial media reports said was about 15km from Gamochen, but which satellite imagery shows could be as close as two to three kilometres away.
Associated Press contributed to this report