Shiv Sena’s Threats - Tensions Between Pakistan and India

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THAT tensions between Pakistan and India flare up from time to time is a damaging, decades-long reality. Quite apart from diplomatic relations, however, in recent years a trend of pettiness has emerged, particularly across the border, that is deeply disturbing. In the latest of display of such disgraceful hostility, a group of 50 Pakistani students and their teachers were forced to return home on Wednesday via the Wagah border after the organisation hosting them in India received threats from the Shiv Sena. The circumstances under which the youngsters were there makes their ejection particularly ironic: they had been invited on a five-day trip by a Delhi-based organisation as part of its student Exchange for Change programme to promote peace and harmony. They had been scheduled to visit Agra as well as meet Indian students at the Pakistan High Commission in New Delhi. Instead, over dinner, they were informed that Indian officialdom had advised that the current Pakistan-India situation was ‘unfavourable’ for such interactions, and were escorted back to Wagah amid tight security. The students’ ages ranged between just 11 and 15 years.

The Foreign Office said it intended to take the issue up with the Indian government. It is for the Indian government and officialdom to introspect over how such a climate of hostility has been fostered in its polity that even such small efforts at normalcy cannot be tolerated. This is far from the first time that ‘soft’ diplomacy between the two countries, based on cultural interaction and people-to-people contact, has been threatened. Pakistani theatre groups have been prevented from performing despite, as in the case of these students, being there at the invitation of Indian organisations and having been issued visas. Just recently, Pakistanis legitimately working in Bollywood found themselves in the extremists’ cross hairs. Saner counsel must prevail and India must find ways of tamping down the intolerance in its society that appears only to be growing.

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