The Government of India has not yet indicated its response to the reported pressure from the Chinese Government to boycott the Nobel Peace Prize Award function proposed to be held at Oslo on December 10.
Having failed in its earlier attempts to pressure the Norwegian Nobel Committee not to give the Peace Prize to the Chinese political activist Liu Xiaobao, now languishing in jail in China after having been convicted on fabricated criminal charges, the Chinese Government has mounted a two-pronged campaign against the award function. Firstly, it has prevented anyone even remotely connected with Liu from going to Oslo to receive the award on his behalf thereby creating a dilemma for the Committee as to whether it should go ahead with the function in the absence of anyone to receive the award on his behalf. Secondly, it has mounted a diplomatic campaign to prevent other countries from sending representatives to attend the function. It has reportedly threatened with adverse consequences in their relations with China if they attended. Russia, Cuba, Kazakhstan, Morocco and Iraq are already reported to have decided not to be represented at the function.
It has been reported that pressure has also been mounted on India not to attend the function and that a veiled threat has been held out that if India did, this could affect the forthcoming visit of Prime Minister Wen Jiabao to India.
This is not the first time that the Nobel Committee has awarded the peace prize to a political dissident. Other countries whose political dissidents were selected by the Committee for the award, protested against it and tried to prevent anyone from their country from going to Oslo to receive the award, but they did not mount the kind of diplomatic pressure to boycott the function as China has been doing.
China has been hoping to achieve its objective of torpedoing the function by using its economic muscle. It succeeded in preventing any political boycott of the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics of August 2008 by threatening countries contemplating a boycott with economic consequences if they did. Ultimately, countries such as France which were thinking of a boycott, gave up the idea.
It is the success of this Chinese pressure tactics which is at the origin of the policy of diplomatic and military assertiveness that China has been following since the Olympics. It thinks it can have its way in matters concerning China by using its economic clout.
Having succeeded in breaking the campaign for the boycott of the Olympics opening ceremony, it now thinks it can succeed in organising a boycott of the Oslo function by using its economic muscle. If it succeeds, the world is going to see even more unpalatable behaviour on the part of China.
The time has come to stop appeasing China and remove the impression from its mind that it can have its way on issues of interest to it by using its economic clout. The international community should reject the Chinese pressure, whatever be the consequences, and should be represented in full strength at the function.
India will be committing a serious mistake if it succumbs to Chinese pressure and refrains from attending the Oslo function. We should not be worried by the threat to cancel the visit of Wen Jiabao. It is important to send a clear message across to China that it cannot continue with its bullying tactics any longer.
B. Raman is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai.
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