India, 45 other countries attend Nobel Peace ceremony

Last Updated: Fri, Dec 10, 2010 15:23 hrs

Oslo/New Delhi: Ignoring Chinese pressure, India on Friday attended the ceremony in Oslo at which imprisoned Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo was given the Nobel Peace Prize although he was dubbed as "criminal" by Beijing.

Russia, Pakistan were among the 15 countries which kept away from the ceremony in view of the strong call made by China to all governments to boycott the ceremony, which falls on the World Human Rights Day.

India was among 46 nations, including the US, the UK and France which attended the ceremony to honour 55-year-old Liu, who has long been an outspoken opponent of the Chinese leadership.

Liu could not be present to accept the award because he is still serving a 11-year sentence for dissidence. In the past, former Polish President Lech Walesa and Myanmar's pro- democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi were not able to take the award in person because they were incarcerated.

New Delhi has made it clear that its decision to attend the Nobel Peace Prize presentation was not a bilateral issue between New Delhi and Beijing.

China blacks out Nobel Peace Prize ceremony

"This is not a bilateral question between China and India. This is a Nobel function arranged by the Nobel foundation.... I think India has already taken a decision to be represented as... on earlier occasions through our Ambassador," External Affairs Minister S M Krishna had said in New Delhi on Thursday.

The ceremony was also attended by many exiled Chinese dissidents, ambassadors, Norwegian royals and other dignitaries who gathered around an empty chair to hail absent Nobel Peace laureate Liu.

During the ceremony, repeatedly punctuated by applause and standing ovations, Nobel Committee chairman Thorbjoern Jagland said the Nobel award is not "anti-China" and the panel's intention was "never to offend anyone".

Speaking about relations between human rights, democracy and peace, he said the award reminds the world that the rights enjoyed today by people was because the great risks taken by many for others.

He said Liu is a symbol of non-violent struggle for human rights. "Liu has done no wrong and must be released."

"China must be prepared for criticism," Jagland said at the ceremony where hundreds of delegates surrounded an empty chair kept in honour of the jailed Chinese dissident.

"The empty chair is a very strong symbol (that) shows how appropriate this prize was," he told a press conference before the ceremony.

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