WikiLeaks: Bollywood stars should tour Afghanistan, said US diplomat

Friday, December 17, 2010

LONDON - Bollywood celebrities should tour Afghanistan to help stabilise the war-ravaged country, suggested a US diplomat who pointed out that Bollywood movies are wildly popular in that country. This was revealed in fresh diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks Friday.

In a confidential March 2007 cable responding to a request from Washington for “specific, concrete ideas for opportunities for India to use soft power in helping Afghanistan’s reconstruction”, officials said Bollywood was an area that “seems ripe”, the Guardian reported.

“We understand Bollywood movies are wildly popular in Afghanistan, so willing Indian celebrities could be asked to travel to Afghanistan to help bring attention to social issues there,” the cable said.

The idea was not put to practice, but it reveals the constant efforts of diplomats in New Delhi to exploit Indian resources and goodwill to bolster the international effort in Afghanistan.

“India has significant aid to offer,” the cable notes, immediately adding that a key challenge would be “to overcome Pakistani objection(s) if India is to expand its role”.

India’s attempts to build its influence in Kabul and among Afghans through indirect aid and reconstruction assistance have often been seen by Pakistan as evidence of a strategy of encirclement by its historic enemy, the Guardian noted.

One cable refers to “India’s lingering zero-sum suspicion of US policies towards Pakistan”.

One key concern for India - apparent in several cables - is that the US and its western allies will prematurely withdraw from Afghanistan having negotiated some kind of settlement with the Taliban. The Indian position has been that any attempt to reconcile with militants is doomed to failure and risks plunging Afghanistan into anarchy and fanaticism from which Pakistan stands to benefit.

The cables describe Indian National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon telling Senator Claire McCaskill that if the Pakistani establishment felt US commitment was flagging, it would “sit it out and use the Indian threat as an excuse for not doing what was needed (in terms of tackling militants within its own borders)”.

Filed under: Bollywood, Movies, World

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