Here we are again. Not long after a former Pakistan cricket captain made an appeal to keep Indo-Pak politics out of sports — on the grounds that it just was not cricket, boom boom — an Indian singer-turned politician has called for the complete opposite. He wants to see Bollywood temporarily ban Pakistani artists from working in the Indian film industry. To this we say, what rot. Artists, sportsmen and writers have an important role to play where political leaderships fail. Even when two countries are at war. For we need literature and film to revisit the human face of conflict as well as its very real cost. Though we do understand the concept of boycotts as non-violent resistance. But this option should surely be left to the citizenries of either or all sides to determine for themselves. That being said, many Palestinians directors have systematically boycotted either attending Israeli film festivals or having their work screened there unless and until everyone can freely go and watch them. Nevertheless, some have broken ranks and even filmed in Israel. Though as individuals living under occupation they have far more leeway to do this than, say, a particular British rock band. Yet Bollywood as an industry is global in outreach. It is made for mass consumption and a large part of its targeted audience is the diaspora around the world; including Pakistanis. And most are happy to pay to sit in the un-cheap seats and watch familiar scenes from back home. India and Pakistan have to arrest immature outbursts by their respective opinion leaders. The arts have no boundaries and peoples joined by centuries of history, geography and cultures need to distinguish between politics and creative arts. More so, there are many Indians and Pakistanis with split families on both sides of the great divide. Not to mention the fact that Pakistani businessmen will only benefit from increased access to the Indian market regardless of CPEC. It is already problematic for the people of both countries to travel across each other’s borders. The visa regime faces an unfortunate standstill. The banning of cross-cultural collaboration will only create an ever-widening chasm. And that is the surely the quickest route to war. * Published in Daily Times, February 23rd 2018.