T can only be described as regrettable in the extreme. The positions taken by and verbal sparring between the governments of India and Pakistan in the current unhappy climate are a reality. But even more unfortunate is the way in which tensions in the aftermath of the Uri attack have gone beyond the realm of the official and have spilled over into `softer` spheres such as culture and sports, where one would have hoped for better sense and a more forward-thinking approach to have prevailed. One example out of several that have recently cropped up on both sides of the border is that of the 12-nation International Kabaddi Foundation World Cup that is to kick off this week in Ahmedabad, India. This country`s players had been favourites to clinch the title, having enjoyed success in recent matches. But on Wednesday, Pakistan was suddenly barred from participating, with Deoraj Chaturvedi, chief of the International Kabaddi Federation, stating that the decision had been taken because of the rise in tensions between the two nations.
`This is not the right time to engage with Pakistan,` he was quoted as saying.
Earlier, Pakistani actors working in India found themselves on the receiving end of calls for them to be ejected from the country, or at least barred from carrying out their contractual obligations, while Indian television channels decided to take down Pakistani content. In Pakistan, meanwhile, cinemas have cancelled runs of Indian films, while Pemra, the electronic regulatory authority, has asked for Indian content on the local airwaves to be removed. The only purpose such knee-jerk and reactionary responses serve is to provide certain elements, be they state or non-state, or motivated by an excess of nationalist, jingoistic or even commercial ideologies, the chance to twist the debate to favour their own agenda. It needs reiterating that when such a situation is allowed to develop, the task of returning relations to normal becomes that much harder there is far more space that has to be clawed back from those who prefer to set their face against peace. Cooperation and collaboration between individuals, especially through fields such as sports, or the visual and performing arts cultural exchange in other words are a crucial form of confidence-building, and as in the case of South Asia, also demonstrate commonalities of tradition and thought. It is such an exchange, free from political impediments, that deserves to be the focus of both countries.