External Affairs Minister (EAM) Sushma Swaraj on Sunday said that love and respect for Indian culture is visible everywhere in Uzbekistan.
Interacting with Uzbek Indologists, Hindi teachers and alumni of ICCR (Indian Council for Cultural Relations) and ITEC (Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation Programme), Swaraj said, "I have been fortunate to meet with those three types of people. Those who have left Uzbekistan for India for their studies through ICCR and ITEC programmes, those who are teaching Hindi and other subjects in Uzbekistan and those who might have never been to India, but love India."
She underlined that although both India and Uzbekistan had established diplomatic ties 25 years ago, the relations between the two nations were built on the foundation of centuries-old historical and cultural ties.
Swaraj stated that after India's independence, the successive governments in India, irrespective of whichever political parties they belonged to, maintained warm and cordial relations with the countries both before and after the Soviet era.
Stressing on people-to-people relations, Swaraj continued, "The love for our language Hindi and classical dances like Kathak and Bharatnatyam in Russia, Uzbekistan, and other neighbouring countries is very much visible."
She said that Bollywood films had made a huge contribution for facilitating closer people-to-people ties between India and Russia and other Central Asian nations.
Underscoring the popularity of late superstar Raj Kapoor in the region, Swaraj noted, "In Russia and Uzbekistan, even if the people knew or did not know the names of government leaders, they always knew Raj Kapoor, which is a household name in both countries."
Dwelling upon Kapoor's admiration, Swaraj recalled her visit to Moscow and said, "I was with a parliamentary goodwill delegation when someone approached me and pointed out to my saree and bindi and said - 'India, India'. I said yes! Then that person continued, 'Raj Kapoor's land' and quoted a line 'Mein Awara Hoon'. Never ever I have seen the popularity of any actor in any country."
Furthermore, the EAM lauded the performances of Uzbek girls at a Kathak event, adding that she was pleasantly surprised when they danced to a Hindi song.
Throwing light on the popularity of yoga in Uzbekistan, Swaraj also hailed the Uzbek girls for doing the 'Surya Namaskar Asana' to perfection at an event, which is considered to be a difficult exercise.
"India has a huge role to play in Uzbekistan in the pharmaceutical and healthcare sectors. Through Information Technology (IT), India and Uzbekistan can work together. Many Uzbek nationals favour India for medical treatment," she added.
Sushma also informed that Uzbekistan President Shavkat Mirziyoyev would be paying a visit to India in October.
Currently, Swaraj is on a three-nation tour to Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan. This is her first visit to the Central Asian countries as the External Affairs Minister.
In Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, the EAM held talks with the leadership of both countries, attended cultural programmes and interacted with the Indian communities residing in two nations.
After completing her engagements in Uzbekistan, Swaraj is expected to leave for India later in the day.