As India and Pakistan exchange fire at the border and rhetoric on the political stage, their conflict is adversely affecting the future of sports between the two nations. Two Pakistani players that had signed up for an ongoing Professional Kabaddi League (PKL) in India will not be playing any match in Mumbai and Pune due to “security concerns.”

This is unfortunate, as Kabaddi is an increasingly popular sport enjoyed equally across borders. Our Pakistani players work very hard to improve their game but they do not get the chance to sharpen their skills on an international platform or benefit monetarily from such an opportunity. Nasir Ali, one of the two players signed up this year, is a debutant in the Pro League, and was signed up by the franchise owners for a fee of INR 800,000 (PKR 1.23 million). Shiv Sena protested the inclusion of the players in the PKL, stating that Pakistanis should not be allowed to play when soldiers are dying at the borders. This is not the first time the Hindu revivalist party has come in the spotlight for its anti-Pakistan remarks.

The same concerns were seen when Pakistani cricket players were not allowed to play in the Indian premier league (IPL) due to the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks. Unfortunately all sporting ties have been severed since that incident. Allowing Pakistani players to participate in the IPL is favoured by cricket enthusiasts on both sides of the border, not just the players themselves, who would benefit greatly both professionally and monetarily by the opportunity. Imagine Shahid Afridi playing in the IPL. What Indian cricket fan would not want to see that happen?

If groups like the Shiv Sena would just maintain a peaceful stance, there is great potential for cultural exchange and dialogue. Pakistan’s terror problem is due to non-state actors, and the state is doing its best to get rid of extremism. In contrast, with the oft-belligerent BJP and the even more rightist Shiv Sena, extremism has become part of the state setup in India. Sportsmen would pose no threat to India, if India was itself in control of the ultra right. But yet again, sport, entertainment and a potential friendship take a hit because of religious extremism and devious politicking.