US PRESIDENT Donald Trump on Thursday took a dig at Prime Minister Narendra Modi for funding a “library” in Afghanistan, saying it is of no use in the war-torn country, as he criticised India and others for not doing enough for the nation’s security.
Sources in Delhi said no standalone library has been built as a development project, but there is a library in Afghanistan’s Parliament building which has been built with Indian support. And there could be some libraries in schools that have been built, sources said.
Chairing his first Cabinet meeting of the year on Wednesday, Trump said: “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).”
“And he (Modi) tells me. He is very smart. We are supposed to say, oh thank you for the library. Don’t know who’s using it (the library) in Afghanistan. But it’s one of those things. I don’t like being taken advantage of,” said Trump. “I say this, India. (I have) great relationship with Prime Minister Modi. He is a great gentleman and a great man and he’s done a fantastic job. He has brought the country together,” he said.
Sources in Delhi pointed out that India has been actively involved in reconstruction efforts in war-ravaged Afghanistan. It has committed about $3 billion in assistance to Afghanistan since US-led forces toppled the Taliban regime after the September 11, 2001 attacks. India is the largest donor in the region, said sources.
“Security is not just boots on the ground. It also means that through projects, one can give economic security, health security, water security etc. Security needs to be seen through the development lens as well,” said a source. India firmly believes in the critical role that developmental assistance can play in transforming human lives, said sources. “India does not send its armed forces abroad except under the specific mandate of UN peacekeeping operations,” the source said.
In Afghanistan, India plays a significant role as a development partner. This partnership is built on the “specific needs and requirements worked out with the Government of Afghanistan”, sources said.
“It is aimed at the welfare of the people of Afghanistan and for tangible improvement in the lives of its people. India seeks to build capacities and capabilities of Afghan nationals and its institutions for governance and delivery of public service, develop socio-economic infrastructure, secure lives and promote livelihood,” they said.
Sources pointed out that the developmental partnership is premised on five pillars — infrastructure projects, capacity building, humanitarian assistance, economic development and connectivity.
* A 218-km road from Zaranj to Delaram for facilitating movement of goods and services to the Iranian border. The highway will connect Iran with the Garland Highway, which links Kabul, Kandahar, Mazar-e-Sharif Herat and Kunduz.
* A 220 KV DC transmission line from Pul-e-Khumri to Kabul and a 220/110/20 KV sub-station at Chimtala.
* India-Afghanistan Friendship Dam (Salma Dam), which has an installed capacity of 42 MW and supplies water for irrigating 75,000 hectares of land.
* The new Parliament, built with Indian support, is a symbol of the democratic traditions that India and Afghanistan share.
* More than 3,500 Afghans are undergoing various training programmes in India.
* A special scholarship scheme of 1,000 scholarships per annum to Afghan nationals under ICCR.
* India offers 500 Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) slots to Afghanistan annually. The ITEC training is expected to address Afghanistan’s need to strengthen its administration and governance at the national, provincial and district levels.
* Supply of 1.1 million MT of wheat.
* The 400-bed Indira Gandhi Institute of Child Health is the main children’s hospital in Afghanistan. Annually, approximately 3 lakh children (2.5 lakh OPD and 50,000 IPD) are treated at IGICH.
* India encourages private investments in Afghanistan, like through the India Afghanistan Trade and Investment Show, 2017.
* 116 new ‘high impact community development projects’ in 31 provinces of Afghanistan, including in education, health, agriculture, irrigation, drinking water, renewable energy, flood control, micro-hydropower, sports infrastructure, administrative infrastructure.
* Small Development Projects scheme in agriculture, rural development, education, health, vocational training, etc.
* Chabahar Port development.
* Direct air freight corridor between India and Afghanistan established in 2017.
Saying that India has been doing a lot of development work in Afghanistan, BJP general secretary Ram Madhav tweeted: “Maybe 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. We are building lives, for which the Afghan people thank us, no matter what others do or don’t.”
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