(Wisdom Quarterly) The Swat Valley, modern Pakistan, was once part of the vast ancient Indian state or territory (mahajanapada) of Gandhara. This area produced some of the finest Westernized sculptures of the Buddha and largest temple complexes with colossal statues -- since it was nearer his actual birthplace, thought to have been somewhere in the Near East (ranajitpal.com) closer to modern Afghanistan.
Evidence is mounting for this controversial view on the original location of Kapilavastu (the Buddha's hometown) and Lumbini (birthplace) far from Nepal and modern India. When the Indian empire was called Bharat (as in the Maha-Bharata, the mythologized Indian epic of "Greater India"), it extended at times far to the West, including parts of the Persian empire, or what is now called the Near and Middle East, and eventually including parts of the expansive Greek empire.
Devastating American wars of aggression, imperial conquest, and unabashed greed are destroying precious heritage sties on a scale not seen since the destruction of ancient Babylon (modern oil-rich Iraq) by the US. As if it were not enough that Afghani and Persian (modern Iranian) Muslims are not proud of their Buddhist and Zoroastrian histories, aggravated by space groups that seem to be dead set on these territories as well, the US is overriding the claims of all former empires.
While Afghanistan seems a desert wasteland of countless caves hiding savage, primitive terrorists too crafty to be detected by our space-age technology (the ludicrous tale we're told about the Osama bin Laden bogeyman), it is in fact home to rich mineral deposits which fueled the building of elaborate Buddhist temples along the Silk Route. (The USSR did not fight and lose a protracted war* there for any better reason than what it stood to gain in terms of resources and strategic advantage). These sites are now threatened by Chinese greed to mine those minerals in spite of the destruction to the archeological wonders sitting on top of them.
*The venture is called "Russia's Vietnam," which is interesting because the only reason America entered its own Vietnam had nothing to do with the cover story of "godless communists" taking over Southeast Asia like dominos. It had everything to do with finishing what the colonial French started.
(All this historial information and analysis running counter to mainstream textbooks and media is what a top notch UC education buys).