Friday, October 10, 2014

An Excellent Nobel Award

The award of the Nobel Peace Prize jointly to Malala Yousafzai and Kailash Satyarthi is excellent not just because of the merit of the recipients but in its timing, when the India-Pakistan border has been for weeks a ribbon of meaningless armed conflict and unnecessary death.

The award underlines the hope and promise of youth in an area where older generations on both sides of the border have failed miserably to understand the hatreds and violence of their common past, much less escape it.

If the two laureates work together, as Satyarthi has proposed in comments to reporters, it could mark an important new beginning for peace in the region.

In contemplating that scenario it is important to underline that anything they do together should be seen as more than an emotional phenomenon.

It is an opportunity to focus attention in both countries not only on their common humanity but on the tragic history of colonial manipulation that split their shared culture and traditions.

In addition, the award points to two aspects of the misery of children in South Asia that highlight how India and Pakistan are victims of the same contemporary circumstances.

One is that the child labor that Satyarthi has spent his life trying to eradicate is rooted in the same bitter poverty that drove the Taliban to try and kill Malala; her bright insouciance threatened the only livelihood they have, the trade of opium and heroin.

The second is the genesis of that common economic reality in colonial rule.

Britain did not just drive what was once the world's most prosperous region into poverty; to protect the interests of its elite in the $60 billion Af-Pak opium/heroin trade and related money laundering it has sustained the murderous terrorism that has blocked or slowed development throughout South Asia.

Perhaps the most poisonous of its manipulations has been the harnessing of religion to the ugliest of human drives, fear, anger and hatred, the theme of India-Pakistan relations since Partition in 1947.

In celebrating Malala the teenage cherub espousing education for girls and Satyarthi the angel of enslaved children, we have the opportunity to address a whole range of dark issues emanating from post-colonial Britain.

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