Barring a last minute change of heart and despite a formal protest by Beijing, an official Indian representative will be present in Oslo on Friday when the Nobel peace prize is formally handed over, in absentia, to Chinese political activist Liu Xiaobo. While India is trying hard to de-link the two, this will have an impact of Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao’s visit to India from December 15 to 17.
However, seeking security in numbers, New Delhi has preferred not to declare its intention to attend in public until other countries have confirmed their attendance. As things stand now, India is among 44 other countries who have confirmed their participation.
India is being particularly cautious because the ceremony will take place just days before Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao’s visit to India from December 15 to 17. In addition, India and China are in the midst of hard-nosed negotiations regarding China’s policy shift on Kashmir. And hopes were are still high that Premier visit will see a change in China’s Kashmir policy. New Delhi refused to confirm or deny its participation earlier this week for fear of being singled out for a Chinese protest at a time when the position of other countries was not known.
The Indian ambassador to Oslo or his deputy will attend the function. But in an indication of China’s growing influence in the subcontinent, at least three other South Asian countries -- Nepal, Sri Lanka and Pakistan -- have or are expected to join the Chinese boycott.
India has attended every previous Nobel peace price ceremony. Staying away from the ceremony when virtually all mature democracies have declared their intention to attend, including emerging economies like Brazil and South Africa, would have placed India in a poor political light. New Delhi would have also been open to charges of appeasing an increasingly assertive China.
Liu, the co-author of a charter for democratic rights, was sentenced to 11 years in l for ‘inciting subversion’ in December 2009.
The committee awarded him the peace prize “for his long and non-violent struggle for fundamental human rights in China.” Beijing has told countries including India to boycott the ceremony or face its displeasure, arguing Liu is nothing more than a criminal.
The Premier will meet with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on December 16.
China is only permanent member yet to give a categorical support for India’s bid. Neither was there any reiteration of the Chinese position on the issue since the India-China joint statement issued on January 31.
“The Chinese side understands and supports India’s aspirations to play a greater role in the United Nations, including the Security Council” forms part of India-China statement when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh visited Beijing in January 2008. “Inclusion of the word security council, was an incremental but a very positive outcome. But we haven’t heard the Chinese reiterating that position since then in a categorical manner,” a government official added.
But, the official recalled that same joint statement also spoke of “giving priority to increasing the representation of developing countries in the security council.”
The government also wishes to see a change of heart from the Chinese on their Kashmir position. The issuing of stapled visa as well the Chinese aiding projects in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK) have strained the ties between the two countries. These moves, which New Delhi says deviates from the official Chinese position that Kashmir is a bilateral issue between the two countries. “We are sure the Chinese understands Indian sensitivities. That Kashmir is to India what Tibet is to China. And showing sensitivities to each others’ concerns is central to taking the ties further,” sources said.