Is the Shiv Sena dancing to a tune they seek to avoid?

Recently, the Shiv Sena has stopped a concert by Ghulam Ali from happening, blackened the face of the organiser of an event to launch a book by a former Pakistan minister, and prevented a meeting between the Indian and Pakistani cricket boards from taking place. They claim that this is because Pakistan continues to support terrorism, and by taking a soft approach of continuing engagement we will encourage them to continue on that path.

This approach assumes that all that Pakistan does springs from the workings of a single and unitary mind. Whereas there are multiple stakeholders within the country, each with its own point of view, and there is significant conflict between these differing perspectives.

Many Indians speak of encounters with Pakistani citizens that reveal a spontaneous warmth and affinity that builds on shared history rather than focusing on differences. This shows that there are sections of civil society within Pakistan as well as India that genuinely seek friendship, and this attitude does bear some influence on sections of the political establishment on both sides. The challenge is to build on this foundation: an approach which requires persistence and patience as there will be continued obstructions placed in the way by those who are not interested in peace.

For there are hardliners on both sides who feel that peace would result in a diminishing of their status. We read in the news that sections within the Pakistan military, particularly the ISI, feel threatened by a dialogue that could lead toward peace, and whenever their own civilian government shows any inclination in this direction they step up their instigation of terrorist acts in order to thwart dialogue. And this dialogue can be thwarted only if hardliners on the Indian side respond similarly. So when the Shiv Sena do what they have been doing, they are responding exactly as the supporters of terrorism from Pakistan want them to. Even if the Sena took instructions directly from the Pakistani generals, they could not do better.

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