Trump takes a jibe at Modi for funding a library in Afghanistan2 min read . Updated: 03 Jan 2019, 10:20 PM IST
We're supposed to say, 'Oh, thank you for the library.' I don't know who's using it in Afghanistan, says Donald Trump
Washington/New Delhi: US President Donald Trump on Wednesday mocked Prime Minister Narendra Modi for funding a library in Afghanistan, suggesting it was of no use.
Trump brought up India’s aid during a rambling press appearance at a cabinet meeting as he defended his push for the US to invest less overseas.
While stating that he got along with Modi, Trump said the Indian leader was “constantly telling me he built a library in Afghanistan."
“You know what that is? That’s like five hours of what we spend," Trump said.
“And we’re supposed to say, ‘Oh, thank you for the library.’ I don’t know who’s using it in Afghanistan," Trump said.
It was unclear to which project Trump was referring, but India has committed $3 billion in assistance to Afghanistan since US-led forces toppled the extremist Taliban regime after the 11 September 2001 attacks.
Projects have included the reconstruction of an elite high school in Kabul and scholarships to India for 1,000 Afghan students each year.
Inaugurating the Afghan Parliament building in 2015 after reconstruction financed by India, Modi promised to promote programmes “empowering Afghan youth with modern education and professional skills."
India has been one of the most enthusiastic countries over the US mission in Afghanistan, where the former Taliban regime sheltered fiercely anti-Indian militants.
But India’s role has alarmed its arch-rival Pakistan, whose intelligence service’s continued ties to extremists in Afghanistan has been seen by analysts in part as a way to counter New Delhi.
Trump last month moved to pull all 2,000 US troops out of Syria and cut by half the 14,000-strong force in Afghanistan, calling for less spending overseas.
Responding to President Trump’s comments, government sources in New Delhi said that India has provided $3 billion in development assistance to the war-torn country.
“India plays a significant role as a development partner in Afghanistan, with projects aimed at achieving a tangible improvement in the lives of its people," said a statement by a government official.
As the “largest donor in the region", New Delhi has helped with infrastructure projects, humanitarian assistance and economic development, the statement added.
Highlights include a 218-km road, a dam providing irrigation to farmers and training programmes for more than 3,500 Afghans in India. New Delhi has also provided 1.1 million tonnes of wheat to Afghanistan as well as a 400-bed children’s hospital.
Ram Madhav, general secretary of Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), said on Twitter that India was “building lives" in Afghanistan.
“Trump should know that while he is decrying every other help in (Afghanistan), India has been building not only libraries, but roads, dams, schools and even parliament building", Madhav said.