Washington, Nov 22 (PTI) Bollywood and cricket are the two 'real stars' of Afghanistan's close relationship with India and the cultures of the two countries are deeply entwined, according to Kabul's top diplomat here.
India and Afghanistan share centuries old cultural heritage with deep rooted linkages in the field of music, arts, architecture, language and cuisine.
'Let's face it, no government initiative could ever be more effective in bringing our people closer than the two real stars of this relationship. And no, I am not referring to any particular political leader,' Afghan Ambassador to the United States, Roya Rahmani, said at an event on Thursday.
The truth is that no discussion about Indian-Afghan relationships would be complete without a mention of Bollywood and cricket, she said.
'I myself grew up anxiously awaiting Thursday nights, when the only TV channel available in Kabul would air an Indian movie. I know I was not the only one eagerly awaiting Thursday nights!' she said.
The event, 'The India-Afghanistan Relationship: Examining Historical, Political, Economic, and Cultural Ties', was organised by The Hudson Institute, a major think tank.
During the dark days of Taliban rule, these joyful films were sometimes the only colourful things Afghan people had to look forward to, she said.
These films provided a glimpse into a different world and gave us hope when little else could. Today, every Afghan, she said, she knows speaks a little Hindi because of these films.
Indian films, songs and TV serials are hugely popular in Afghanistan, contributing significantly to the popularisation of Hindi and familiarisation of the populace with Indian socio-cultural value system.
TV serials like Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi, Kasauti Jindagi Ki, Kum Kum and Kahani Ghar Ghar Ki, Pratigya, Utran have been dubbed in Dari language.
As part of India's restructuring programme for Afghanistan, India has aimed to take up projects that will render the country's cultural heritage sustainable, according to information on the website of the Indian Embassy in Afghanistan.
'As for cricket, now a national pastime, last year, India declared the Greater Noida Stadium as the Afghan team's official training facility, as they currently don't have one in Afghanistan. The Indian government has also provided coaching and technical facilities, as well as funding for a stadium in Kandahar,' Rahmani said.
She said India is the largest regional provider of development aid to Afghanistan. Indeed, the Strategic Partnership Agreement forged between Kabul and New Delhi has paved the way for strong partnerships in infrastructure development, education, and trade, she said.
India has played a significant role in the reconstruction and rehabilitation process of war-torn Afghanistan. India's extensive developmental assistance programme, which now stands at over USD 2 billion, is a strong signal of its abiding commitment to peace, stability and prosperity in Afghanistan.
Rahmani said the genuine commitment of the India government and of the Indian people to help build a prosperous and peaceful Afghanistan is apparent every day.
'I think of it every time I see our beautiful Parliament building, which was generously built by India. At its inauguration in 2015 Prime Minister (Narendra) Modi stated that this building, 'Stands as an enduring symbol of the ties of emotions and values, of affection and aspirations that bind [India and Afghanistan] in a special relationship.' This could not be better stated,' she said.
Much of this cooperation, and the commitment of Indian partners to an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process speaks of their shared love of freedom and deep belief in democracy, she added. PTI LKJ SMN AKJ AKJ