IT'S the sort of concert audience Pakistani singer Iqbal Bano
draws at home.
Inside the crowded auditorium, enthusiastic fans sway to Mrs.
Bano's lilting ghazals or love poems in Urdu, Pakistan's major
language. Outside, in the evening heat, hundreds more sit raptly on
the grass and pavement and listen over loudspeakers.
But this isn't Pakistan. It's India. "There is no difference as
far as people are concerned. We have the same culture and come from
the same background," says the diva. "Countries might divide, but
not the hearts."
For more than four decades, culture has been a battleground and a
bond between India and Pakistan. Officially, the governments have
enforced a policy of cultural isolation. At the root is the bitter
partition of the subcontinent in l947 and political animosities that
have drawn the rivals into three wars and in recent months
threatened a fourth.
The cultural divide served political purposes in both countries.
Pakistan, carved out of British India as a Muslim homeland, denied
its subcontinent roots, and struggled to find a new identity in an
Predominantly Hindu but secular India discouraged people-to-
people contact to challenge Pakistan's right to be separate. Indian
officials also objected to links with the Pakistan government
because it has been dominated by the military for much of Pakistan's
For years, travel was restricted to only about 7,000 religious
pilgrims and members of divided families who had to check regularly
with the police in every city. Visitors from the other country were
often shunned for fear of raising government suspicions.
Cricket matches, the national sport in both countries, often
turned into angry political confrontations. Indian magazines, books,
and cassette tapes were restricted in Pakistan, and Pakistani
publications were barred in India.
Often only three journalists were allowed to work in each
country. Indian and Pakistani academics had to meet outside the
region. Even the festival of India, a cultural extravaganza that
toured the world in the 1980s, was turned down by Pakistan.
"We took the festival of India everywhere. But we couldn't break
through the political barriers and visit Pakistan," recalls Pupil
Jayakar, a former Indian government advisor who organized the
"We're like a separated couple who is so familiar but just can't
live together," says a Pakistani diplomat.
Informally, though, many artists, performers and academics have
resisted political pressures and pursued links in their common
These ties have deepened as Indians and Pakistanis living in the
Middle East, Europe, and elsewhere met and interacted outside the
subcontinent's restricted climate, observers say. …