Last week, Malala Yousafzai and Kailash Satyarthi—a 17-year-old Pakistani spokeswoman for women’s education, and an Indian child’s rights advocate—were announced as the winners of the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize. The awards come as conflict has flared up along the Kashmir border between India and Pakistan. This past month alone, Pakistan has reported 12 deaths to the U.N. due to violence between the two nations, while India reports 17. Yousafzai has invited the leaders of both India and Pakistan to accompany her and her co-winner to the award ceremony, but both prime ministers’ offices have declined to say whether they will accept the invitation. Do you believe the Nobel Peace Prize winners will open an opportunity for both countries’ leaders to discuss their diplomatic relationship, and if not, what will?

Prof. Nidhiya Menon (ECON)

I think that by selecting these individuals, the Nobel committee has shone a light on an issue that India and Pakistan are not proud of – both have some of the highest incidence of child labor in the world.  I do think that this is an opportunity for both countries to put aside the past and to focus on a future as regional partners.  But as a realist, I must acknowledge that there are hurdles along the way, some of which seem unsurmountable (both countries claim territory that is part of Indian Kashmir).  Like the Israeli-Palestinian issue, I think that what is required is first, people on both sides who can see things from the other’s perspective, and second, people in power who do not use politics to play games and to exploit ground realities.  Only then will our children inherit a less violent world than the one we were bequeathed.

Prof. Nidhiya Menon (ECON) is an associate professor of economics. 

Prof. Harleen Singh (COML, SAS, WGS GRALL)

 Unfortunately, I do not think this shared honor is going to change bilateral relations between the countries.  The roots of the Pakistan-India conflict lie in the historic trajectory of colonialism, nationalism and the ensuing partition.  Getting two people from India and Pakistan to share an award on a podium is not going to change that.  This doesn’t mean that the people in the two countries do not desire peace or that they cannot interact with each other—in fact, left to themselves, Indians and Pakistanis connect very easily on the basis of a shared history and culture.  However, the political ramifications of a shared past are not so easily solved.  The leaders of both countries will have to exhibit strong political will in order to get us out of this morass of hostility; and it also depends on Pakistan achieving internal stability and on whether India can stop its politicians from inflaming communal violence that repeatedly targets minority populations.

Prof. Harleen Singh (SAS) teaches SAS 140b: Who We Are at Home Everywhere: Narratives from the South Asian Diaspora.

Jessie Miller '15

Though both Yousafzai and Satyarthi deserve the Nobel Peace Prize for their meaningful work, being from the same subcontinent does not mean their respective governments will enter into peace talks. Since their partition in 1947, the bordering countries have experienced consistent tension and wars, further exacerbated by the presence of nuclear weapons in both countries—neither of which has signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. India and Pakistan also experience frequent “border skirmishes,” most recently in July, which results in further violence, property damage and threat of nuclear tension. Recognizing the dedication of Yousafzai and Satyarthi may be an important victory for female education and the fight against child slavery, but that does not suddenly open a magic door for conflict resolution. However, in addition to diplomatic and government figures, passionate individuals like the latest Nobel Peace Prize winners are an essential part of the ongoing dialogue for peace in the region. 

Jessie Miller ’15 is an Undergraduate Department Representative for the International and Global Studies program and a Deputy Editor of the Justice.

Krishna Naranayan '17

Relations between India and Pakistan will not improve any time soon. Since the partition of British India in 1947, India and Pakistan fought each other in four major wars and several smaller standoffs. These past conflicts contribute to the current hostility between the two countries. However, if Satyarthi and Yousafzai can each accept the Nobel Peace Prize without embroiling in some controversy, then why can’t their two countries end their fighting amicably? Some would argue that the problem lies with the past generations who participated in and witnessed the atrocities of the Indo-Pakistani conflicts. Even if they are unwilling to change their opinions, I say that it is time to teach the new generation about forgiveness and the potential for peace. Satyarthi and Yousafzai and countless others do not struggle for the right of education for all to see future generations use their knowledge to continue the fighting. They know human rights do not end at a country’s borders. It is time for the countries themselves to recognize this fundamental fact.

Krishna Naranayan ’17 is a member of Amnesty International.