Nobel brings little impetus for peace in India and Pakistan

NEW DELHI- New Nobel peace laureate Malala Yousafzai wasted little time living up to the accolade last week, inviting the leaders of traditional foes India and Pakistan to accompany her and fellow winner Kailash Satyarthi, an Indian child rights activist, to the award ceremony.

But, just hours later, a fresh exchange of fire between troops in the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir provided a stark reminder that the prospect of lasting peace remains as distant as ever.

The offices of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif both declined this week to say whether they would accept Malala’s overture.

It is a diplomatic hot potato, given the fractious relationship between the nuclear-armed neighbours, who have fought three wars since partition in 1947.

Senior Pakistani analyst Hasan Askari said the joint Nobel award was a clear signal that the international community wanted to see India and Pakistan working together more to promote peace in the region, but that outside pressure would only go so far.

“The issue of improvement of relations between the two countries is a political issue and in the past sometimes the two countries have listened to the international community and sometimes ignored it,” he told AFP.

“It really depends if the political leadership wants peace or conflict at this stage.”

New Prime Minister Modi invited his Pakistani counterpart to his inauguration ceremony in May, a move widely hailed as an olive branch to India’s traditional enemy.

But as he hit the campaign trail for state elections last week, the nationalist leader was in a bellicose mood.

“The enemy has realised that times have changed and their old habits will not be tolerated,” said Modi, referring to Pakistan, in a speech delivered a day before the Nobel committee’s announcement.

He said Indian troops would continue to “speak with their finger on the trigger”, after some of the deadliest cross-border firing along their frontier in a decade, in which at least 20 civilians were killed.

For those living near the border, the Nobel Prize provided little comfort.

“We are happy that a Pakistani got this peace award, but I don’t think it will help in reducing tension,” said Sardar Mohammad Javed, whose family was affected by the Indian shelling across the border.