India has not even proposed a library to the Afghan government. It does, however, continue to remain one of Afghanistan’s biggest aid donors.
New Delhi: US President Donald Trump’s ‘library jibe’ aimed at Prime Minister Narendra Modi may be a taunt at India’s efforts in Afghanistan but it now appears that it was not even based on fact.
Sources confirmed to ThePrint that India has never built a library in Afghanistan and neither has it proposed one to the Afghan government. It is also unclear when PM Modi discussed this with Trump.
On Wednesday, the US president had mocked Modi during a press conference where he was defending his drive for the US to spend less overseas.
“I could give you an example where I get along very well with India and Prime Minister Modi. But he is constantly telling me, he built a library in Afghanistan. Library! That’s like five hours of what we spend (in Afghanistan),” Trump had said. “We are supposed to say, oh thank you for the library. Don’t know who’s using it (the library) in Afghanistan.
“What other countries have done for the last long period of time is given us some soldiers and then talk about it like it’s the end of the world,” the US president added. “And we are subsidising their military by billions and billions and billions of dollars, many, many, many times, what those soldiers cost that country.”
Trump also stated that Russia went bankrupt while fighting its war in Afghanistan. “Why isn’t Russia there (now)? Why isn’t India there? Why isn’t Pakistan there? Why are we there and we are 6,000 miles away,” he added.
The taunt from Trump comes at a time when the US is planning to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan substantially even as it has urged other countries to ratchet up their contribution in a substantial way in an effort to develop the war-ravaged country.
It drew flak even on Twitter. Michael Kugelman, Deputy Director and Senior Associate for South Asia at the Washington DC-based Wilson Centre tweeted: “Today Trump mocked #India, a key US non-NATO partner that’s done major development work in #Afghanistan, for building a library there. Sigh.”
Aimed at India’s efforts in the region
Trump’s comments are being viewed as an attempt by his administration to get New Delhi to send its armed forces to Afghanistan, something that the administration has been pushing India to do ever since it has started re-strategising its Af-Pak policy.
India, however, has maintained that it will not send troops to Afghanistan. India does not send its armed forces abroad except under the specific mandate of UN peacekeeping operations. In September 2017, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had informed former US defence secretary James Mattis that “there shall not be any boots on the ground in Afghanistan”.
India, though, does supply defence equipment to Afghanistan, from four Mi-25 (Mi-24D) helicopters, three HAL Cheetah light utility helicopters to the Afghan Air Force (AAF) and other improved weapon systems.
India also is the largest donor to Afghanistan from the South Asian region, with development assistance exceeding $3 billion since American forces toppled Taliban from the country after the twin tower attacks in New York on 11 September 2001.
India’s development assistance includes construction of roads, transmission line, dam and the Afghan Parliament. This is based on the needs and demands of the Afghan government.
*This report has been modified to incorporate more from Trump’s reach and Kugelman’s response on Twitter.