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Obama's Nobel Victory and the Muslim world

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United States President Barack Hussein Obama has won the coveted Nobel Peace Prize for 2009 for his "extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples." The Nobel Committee decided in favor of Obama after deliberating over 172 people and 33 organizations, the highest number of nominees in the history of Nobel Peace Prize. It was quite a surprising move and stunned even the most ardent supporters of Obama. It is the first time that any sitting head of state of a country has won this prize in the very first year of his/her government as no one is able to contribute anything towards world's peace within such a short span of time. Obama's critics have found a new issue to malign his administration and Glenn Becks and Rush Limbaughs will soon start their slandering campaign.

Let's take a turn from the domestic impacts of this mind boggling victory of Obama and focus our attention towards the Muslim World. After all, it was Obama's efforts to bring peace into the region that caught the attention of the Nobel Committee. His address to the Muslim world in Egypt was a turning point in the U.S. foreign policy when the president accepted some grave mistakes of the US in handling the issues of terrorism and extremism.

His promise of a new policy towards the Muslim world was largely appreciated in the Muslim world with some dissenting voices. These people were of the opinion that although he has signaled a shift in US policies, there would hardly be any real changes on the ground. Although it is too early to say anything on this issue, his critics in the Muslim world are citing the deteriorating situation in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Pakistan, on the other hand, is going through its own quagmire and terrorism is eroding the very roots of Pakistani society (A recent bomb blast in Peshawar took 49 lives).

Indonesia and Malaysia, once known for their pluralistic and secular societies, are also seeing a shift towards extremism. Amid all this mayhem in the Muslim world, Obama has not yet mentioned his strategy for the broader interaction with Muslims. Additionally, there are concerns about him following his predecessor's policies with some "sugar-coated" changes.

His supporters in the Muslim world, however, have rejected these concerns as baseless as they say that combating terrorism will take time and it is necessary to confront the extremists instead of bowing before them. Afghanistan definitely needs a surge in troops -- a surge that should be lower than General McChrystal's recommendations but significant enough to quash the rising insurgency. Pakistan too needs a sustained attention and there is a need for massive engagement with its main stakeholder, the Pakistani Army (They have already rejected the $7.5 billion aid offered by the US). Some elements of Pakistani military are still supporting the Taliban and they need to be tackled well by the US while conferencing with the top military establishment of Pakistan.

The real question raised by this "great achievement" of Obama is "Will he actually deliver?" Nothing can be said about this at this point and only time will prove the justification or otherwise of this peace prize. With growing troubles at the domestic front and changing world scenarios, the real worth of the prize can be ascertained in the second-to-third year of his presidency. But for the time being, Congratulations, Mr. President!