LAHORE – Chairman of the Observer Research Foundation, India, Sudheendra Kulkarni, will address a round-table discussion on “Pak-India Relations — the way forward” tomorrow, February 13.

Mian Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri, former foreign minister of Pakistan and Chairman of the Pakistan Forum will preside over the event, according to a press release issued by the Pakistan Forum which is organising the talks.

Sudheendra Kulkarni was a close adviser of former Indian prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and is also considered very close to LK Advani, a former deputy prime minister and the leader of the opposition in India.

Kulkarni remained very much involved with the Pakistan-India dialogue during Vajpayee’s tenure. He is a strong defender of the rights of Muslims and other minorities in India and has often faced the wrath of extremist elements as a result. A large number of diplomats, retired military officers, journalists, intellectuals, educationists and civil society activists will participate in the discussion.

When Kasuri was in Delhi in 2015 in connection with the launch of his book, ‘Neither a Hawk Nor a Dove’, the Shiv Sena, a fundamentalist Hindu organisation warned Kasuri not to land in Mumbai to launch his book there on the invitation of Sudheendra Kulkarni or he would have to ‘face the consequences’. They also threatened Kulkarni who had invited Kasuri on behalf of the Observer Research Foundation to launch his book in Mumbai to cancel the invitation.

Kulkarni refused to succumb to Sena’s warnings. When Kasuri landed at Mumbai airport, it was surrounded on all sides by thousands of Shiv Sena’s workers. He, however, managed to leave the airport due to heavy police protection. The Shiv Sena then decided to vent its anger at Kulkarni. They attacked him at his residence, beat him up mercilessly, and plastered black paint on his face. Despite this, Kulkarni decided to go ahead with the book launch in the evening with his face painted black.

The picture became iconic at that time and created a sensation not just in India but worldwide leading to widespread condemnation of Shiv Sena’s hooliganism. The incident provided the incentive to civil society in India to react to such tactics and a large number of Indian academics, historians, artists, scientists and celebrities decided to return their awards. This is Kulkarni’s first visit to Lahore after the ‘Mumbai incident’.