On Monday, we had to cancel a free performance in Mumbai by the acclaimed Sachal Jazz Ensemble, featuring Indian, Pakistani and British musicians. The 900 fans who had shown up at the city's National Centre for the Performing Arts went home disappointed. This was because a final clearance from the Mumbai police did not arrive on time.

At the best of times, it isn't easy holding a concert in India involving overseas artists. Organisers are required to obtain a set list of licenses that vary on several factors. In this case, we had to get a clearance from the Maharashtra state home department for the foreign musicians and were assured that the police was only a formality.

But while the licences for the British artists was granted easily, the licences for the Pakistani artists were held up.

It didn't seem to make sense. After all, Sachal Jazz Ensemble performed at the NH7 Festival in New Delhi last week, having already obtained necessary approvals from the Indian Home Ministry.

In recent years, the group has performed at  the Barbican Centre and South Bank Centre in London, Jazz At Lincoln Centre in New York and the prestigious Marciac Jazz Festival in France.  This means they have also received security clearances from the US Department of Homeland Security, the British Border Force and the French government. We are extremely baffled about why this simple police clearance in Mumbai was withheld. 

It seems ironic that while the renowned Gundecha brothers from Bhopal are touring Karachi and Lahore at this moment and singer Kishori Amonkar has just given an outstanding concert in Dhaka, the Sachal Ensemble will be heading home from India on Wednesday without having played a single note in Mumbai.

As the organisers of the concert, we are ashamed that India has not been able to reciprocate the same level of welcome to musicians from a neighbouring country. What is to be the fate of such international collaborations and cultural exchanges in the future? When will we learn to separate the influence of politics and hidden agendas from the arts?

With the eyes of the world on India, now more than ever before, one cannot help but asking  whether "acche din" are actually here or whether we have scored an own goal.