NEW DELHI: By awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to Pakistan’s Malala Yousufzai and India’s Kailash Satyarthi on Friday, at a time when their militaries were locked in a volatile spiral on the borders, the Nobel Committee has shone the torch on a more real enemy the countries jointly confront — jeopardised future for millions of their children, analysts said.
Ms Yousufzai did not lose time to broach the idea of India-Pakistan peace, saying the award had emboldened her to invite the two prime ministers to the prize ceremony in Stockholm in December. Mr Satyarthi and Ms Yousufzai spoke on the phone and decided to persuade their leaders to come to Stockholm where the two would hopefully end their self-imposed aloofness with each other.
“We both agreed that every child goes to school and every child gets quality education,” Ms Yousufzai said in a televised message to her supporters. “Other than this we decided – as he is from India and I am from Pakistan – that we will try to build strong relationship between our countries,” she said of her talk with Mr Satyarthi.
They discussed the tensions on the borders and said this was not how they wanted their countries to be.
“The tension that is going on is really disappointing, and I am really sad because we want both the countries to have dialogue, to have talks about peace, to think about progress, to think about development rather than fighting with each other,” Ms Yousufzai said.
She asked Mr Satyarthi to request Prime Minister Narendra Modi as she would Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to join them at the prize ceremony. “I really believe in peace. I really believe in tolerance and patience, and it is really important for the progress of the two countries that they have peace and they have good relations.”
Both Ms Yousufzai, lauded as a brave advocate of girls’ education in Pakistan, and Mr Satyarthi who has fought child slavery and exploitation of children as forced labourers in India, have spoken for their causes at the United Nations.
“This news should be broadcast to the militaries and their political colluders on both sides,” said Om Thanvi, editor of Delhi’s premier Hindi daily Jansatta. “The prize comes as a lovely irony, and it is so timely that it almost seems planned to herald a specific agenda of peace between our two countries.”
Answering a question from The Hindu on whether he saw the prize contributing to peace in the subcontinent, particularly with strain at the border, Nobel Committee chairman and former Norwegian Prime Minister Thorbjørn Jagland said that “contribution to resolving conflict anywhere was welcome”.
At the age of 17, Malala is now the youngest Nobel Prize winner ever. She and Mr Satyarthi will share the $1.11million prize to be awarded in Oslo on Dec 10.
This year there were 278 nominees for the prize, more than any other year till date. The other major contenders for the prize this year were Edward Snowden, who exposed the surveillance activities of US intelligence agencies; Pope Francis, the first non-European Pope in modern times; Denis Mukwege, a Congolese leader who worked with rape victims; and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.
While Ms Yousufzai is known for her human rights advocacy for education and for women in her native Swat Valley, where the local Taliban had at times banned girls from attending school, Indian analysts said there was a lot she had to offer as a role model for millions of disadvantaged Indian girls.
Similarly, they said, Mr Satyarthi could become an important ally of Pakistan’s National Human Rights Commission and other bodies that have been fighting child labour, which targets girls and boys in the most despicable ways.
Mr Satyarthi would find that children in Pakistan too are engaged in child labour, including in agriculture and in the worst forms of child labour in bonded labour. Data from the government’s 2012-2013 National Labour Force Survey indicate that the majority of child workers reside in rural areas.
Ms Yousufzai would find that millions of Indian girls of different religions, castes and regions face problems that are similar to the ones she confronted at home — a patriarchal resistance to their growth.
Published in Dawn, October 11th , 2014