The Nobel Committee’s official reason for awarding this year’s Peace Prize jointly to child right’s activist Kailash Satyarthi and education activist Malala Yousafzai was in order to commend their “struggle against the suppression of children and young people”.

But there is another, clear aspect to picking these two activists in the same year: they happen to come from neighbouring countries, India and Pakistan, that have an age-old border conflict and are currently lobbing shells at each other.

While the efforts both Satyarthi and Yousafzai have made towards improving the lives of children and youngsters the world over should be the main focus, one cannot ignore this not-so-subtle message about peace that the committee is making to the two nuclear neighbours.

Political statement

But then, this isn’t the first time the Nobel Peace Prize has been used to make a political comment.

The Nobel Peace Prize is meant to be given to those who have “done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses.” It’s hard, though, to find candidates whose work has done this directly .

Consider the 2007 award, which was given to former US Vice President Al Gore and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a fairly oblique way to approach an award that is meant for those who promote peace. That year’s award was a reminder that often the Norwegian Peace Prize Committee is looking beyond just the most meritorious candidate and instead seeking to make a political statement.

Two years later this would become even more embarrassingly apparent. Barely a year into his presidency, the committee decided to give the award to US President Barack Obama. The peace prize was given to him for his “extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples”.

After weeks of debate over whether Obama should even be accepting the prize, the sheepish US president turned up in Oslo to accept it, while also making one of the more controversial peace prize speeches of recent times. Accepting a prize explicitly meant to go to those who work towards the “abolition” of standing armies, Obama made the argument that war is sometimes justified.

The 2012 prize, meanwhile, went to the European Union. It was a fine decision considering the peace efforts that the organisation has engendered, but also very pointed in its timing, considering the growing Eurosceptic debate of the time and the troublesome debt issues the Union was facing.

Open to accusations

This explicitly political nature of the peace prize, unlike say the ones awarded to those who have had superlative achievements in chemistry or even literature, means the committee is often under very different scrutiny. There are frequent allegations that the award is an overt political tool of the West, a conspiracy theory that – considering the belief in Pakistan that Yousafzai is being used by the US Central Intelligence Agency – is unlikely to go away in light of this award.

As it happens, the entire judging panel is made of former Norwegian politicians. There have often been arguments that the committee is not just overtly political in its approach, but also far too closely connected to internal Norwegian debates that matter less for the wider world.

In the case of Yousafzai and Satyarthi, the committee has openly admitted its decision to club the two together was not a coincidence. In the press release that accompanied the announcement, the the committee said it “regards it as an important point for a Hindu and a Muslim, an Indian and a Pakistani, to join in a common struggle for education and against extremism.”