nder pressure from China not to attend the Nobel Peace Prize award ceremony in Oslo on December 10, when Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo would be formerly and ceremonially handed over the award. It remains to be seen now how deep India’s commitment to the brand of “democracy” touted by the West is, and if this commitment actually can be treated as something which can be bargained on the altar of diplomacy. According to news reports, less than three days from D-Day, India is still undecided on the issue, and has not come out with a clear answer on whether it would be sending its official representative to the Nobel ceremony. Its dilemma is unenviable and unambiguous. Should it go ahead and displease a powerful neighbour with which it has been having a very chequered relationship, or should it leave ideals aside and take care of its immediate and tangible interests first. Indeed, as many China experts in India are pointing out, China would be obliged to do a return favour if India obliged its request.
Then again, it is discernable from the debates on the subject so far that a good section of the Indian intelligentsia feels that the touted “ideal” of “democracy” India would be standing by if it decides to go against its neighbour’s request, may after all represent not a universal value, but in many ways a sectarian interest of the West. The Nobel Peace Prize was conceived at its inception as a reward for iconic figures who promote peace between nations. It maybe this definition of peace is limited, but much water has flowed down the rivers of the world every since and especially during the Cold War, it had come to be reduced to a way of the West to make statements against Communism and Communist countries. A bit of the hangover from the Cold War colours the Nobel Peace Prize acquired is still visible today, and political dissidents in countries that the West sees as espousing political and economic ideologies opposed to its have been prime candidates for the prestigious awards. If this was not so, Irom Sharmila Chanu would have deserved the Nobel Peace Prize much more than even Xiaobo. Indeed, as we had suggested in an earlier editorial, if Sharmila was a Chinese citizen and if her decade long hunger strike against the draconian Armed Forces Special Powers Act, AFSPA-1958, was directed against the Chinese government and not India, she probably would have got the Nobel Peace Prize already. Again as we had suggested, perhaps the award of the Prize to Xiaobo would make Sharmila a stronger candidate for the next award, just so that the Nobel committee makes the further point that contrary allegations that the awarding Xiaobo was indeed on account of his own personal quality as peace promoter and not just to spite a country they do not like, or grudgingly envy as the case may be.
No doubt about it that the Nobel Peace Prize, and perhaps a shade lighter, the Literature Nobel Prize, are political in nature. Remember, Mahatama Gandhi, whose non-violent dissidence against a colonial power was unparalleled in human history, never received the Peace Prize, and the Nobel committee’s reasons for refusing Gandhi repeatedly is now known. Among the foremost of these is that Gandhi was considered too political in his outlook and action. Can any hypocrisy be more pronounced than this?
In a day or two, it will be known where India stands on the matter. Would it decide to look after its own interests, in keeping with the calls of real politick, the euphemism for which is diplomacy, or would it decide that Xiaobo truly represents a democratic force capable of bringing about better relations between nations? Understandably, the whole world would be watching India at this moment. As a rising world economic power and the largest democracy in the world, surely India refusing to attend the ceremony would hurt the institution of the Nobel Peace Prize considerably. On the other hand, should it decide to attend, its effort to patch up with China may take a severe blow. At moments like this, many would be wishing that the matter was not so uni-dimensional and in black and white. Many would hence be missing the now defunct Non Aligned Movement, NAM, the brainchild of Nehru, Nasser and Tito which provided a counter balance to the Cold War antagonism, and in the continuance of which India played a crucial role.