Saturday, October 10, 2009


As we all know, President Barack Obama did nothing earthshaking in the 11 days he was in office before the closing date for filing of nominations for the Nobel Peace Prize. Yes, he promised to close the Guantanamo Bay prison and banned torture and extreme interrogation techniques. That was surely not enough to tip the scales in his favour.

Clearly, for perhaps the first time in the not-so-noble history of the Nobel Peace Prize, the jury has given it in anticipation of what Obama had promised to deliver to the world before he became President rather than what he has done after he entered the White House.

I am an ardent admirer of President Obama and believe that he has a vision and a world view that no American President before him has had or could have had. His multi-racial, multi-cultural background and the years he spent as a boy in Indonesia with his mother and step-father, have enabled him to see things from a perspective that would not have been possible had he grown up as white man in the US. It is largely due to this upbringing that he has become the man he is, with Gandhi and Dr King as his idols.

Only Obama could have made that stirring speech in Berlin where he said on July 24, 2008: "People of the world, this is our moment, this is our time". Men of destiny often arrive at their destination even as others believe they are still on the way and are not sure whether they will reach. On that day when I watched him speak and listened to what he had to say to the people of the world, as if he was the leader of them all and not just of the people of the United States, I had little doubt in my mind that he was destined to grace the Oval Office and lead not just America but the whole world, and not just as a political leader but as a unifying, inclusive beacon of morality and hope.

Nine months into his Presidency, Obama has shown that his pre-poll promises were not like the ones we are used to seeing in India, and has taken steps to give concrete shape to them. The Nobel jury has also noted "his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between nations" and his campaign for nuclear non-proliferation. Notwithstanding all that, the hard fact is that as far as real achievements worthy of the award are concerned, he still has a long way to go.

The cynical, therefore, cannot be faulted for alleging that this Peace Prize has been rigged.

Some Indians will surely be pleased to hear this, for till now it was believed that rigging was a typical Indian specialty. This was always evident in the Padma Awards doled out by the government of India. How often have we seen them being given to 'inclusive' historians, 'exclusive' politicians, 'political' journalists, 'connected' nobodies and the like? But, who has not noticed that, of late, even gallantry awards have been similarly corrupted, as they had to be, into 'entitlements' for some who either simply die in a bomb blast or get shot dead by terrorists?

Though I too believe that Obama has been given the Nobel too prematurely, there is little doubt that he has got it because of the enormous impact that he is expected to make on the world in his eight years of Presidency, if he gets a second term. The jury can be faulted for assuming that the promise will become reality; it cannot be accused of giving it to someone who is not deserving, as it has been on occasions in the past.

In law there is a provision for granting anticipatory bail to someone fearing arrest, to prevent him from being arrested. In giving President Obama an anticipatory No'bel', the jury may have unknowingly tied him down to delivering on his many promises. If the Peace Prize acts as a catalyst to make Obama work even harder to usher in the many pioneering changes that he has spoken of, it would have done its job and found a truly deserving recipient.

Picture: The New York Times