Pakistan, India Tension Becomes Culture War

Karachi, Pakistan, 23 Muharram 1438/24 October 2016 (MINA) – A month of tension between Pakistan and India that has resulted in diplomatic arguments and cross-border gunfights has also been played out on the cultural front in recent weeks.

While Indian film producers barred Pakistani artists and technicians from working on Indian movies, Pakistan also enforced a ban on Indian movies and dramas on Friday.

Indian hardline groups like the right-wing Hindu nationalists Shiv Sena have demanded Pakistani actors leave the country, including the in-demand Fawad Khan, whose films they wanted boycotted, and Mahira Khan, a famous Pakistani female actress who was set to make her Indian debut in the film “Raees”.

The tension began when 19 Indian soldiers were killed in Indian-held Kashmir by militants India claimed had links to Pakistan. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has since boasted about carrying out “surgical strikes” on the Pakistani side of the border.

The entertainment industry has often become a battleground relations between the two nations since 1947, with a 40-year ban on Indian movies after the 1965 war only being lifted in Pakistan in 2005.

Khalid Farshori, a Pakistani drama writer told Anadolu Agency: “I do not think the ban will take too long as Pakistani artists, especially singers, are very popular in India and are a huge business for the Indian film industry.”

“But yes this will continue until normalcy returns in terms of diplomatic relations between the two neighbors,” he said.

Indian film-maker Vivek Agnihotri defended the decision made by Indian film producers, claiming the problem developed after some Pakistani artists did not condemn the attack against the soldiers in Kashmir.

“That was when masses and public said if they don’t feel sympathy with the country they are living and earning money in, then they shouldn’t be allowed to work in India. I think it is a war-like situation…if we suspended cultural exchange for sometime it is a wise decision,” said Agnihotri.

Kolkata-based social activist and writer Saira Shah Halim said however that the two countries should be focusing on other issues, like working together to tackle poverty and unemployment.

“The India-Pakistan cultural war doesn’t help anyone nor does employing talent from the other country make any one less patriotic,” she said. “Cultural exchanges should continue between the two countries and all measures taken to de-escalate tensions that could have the potential of escalating things into a full blown war.” (T/R07/R01)

Mi’raj Islamic News Agency (MINA)