Donald Trump said PM Modi was "constantly telling me he built a library in Afghanistan"
Hours after US President Donald Trump mocked Prime Minister Narendra Modi for funding a library in Afghanistan, wondering "who's using it", India said developmental help can be critical to transforming the war-ravaged country. "India firmly believes in the critical role that developmental assistance can play in transforming human lives," said government sources on Thursday.
They added that "India's partnership with Afghanistan is built on the specific needs and requirements worked out with the government of Afghanistan and is aimed at the welfare of the people of Afghanistan and for a tangible improvement in the lives of its people".
President Trump brought up India's aid during a rambling press appearance at a cabinet meeting as he defended his push for the United States to invest less overseas. He referred to PM Modi as an example of how world leaders are talking about their contributions that were nowhere near the "billions of dollars" the US was spending.
Emphasizing that he got along with PM Modi, Trump said he 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 also asked India, Russia, Pakistan and other neighbouring countries to take responsibility for Afghanistan's security.
Government sources said India does not send its armed forces abroad except under the specific mandate of UN Peacekeeping Operations.
India's partnership with Afghanistan is based on five pillars, infrastructure projects, capacity building, humanitarian assistance, economic development and connectivity, said sources. "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.
Though it is not clear what project Trump had referred to, India has committed $3 billion in assistance to Afghanistan since US-led forces toppled the extremist Taliban regime after the September 11, 2001 attacks. The sources said India may be building small libraries as part of the community development initiative, but most of its investments in Afghanistan were on mega infrastructure projects including the 218 km road from Zaranj to Delaram, the Salma Dam and the new Afghan Parliament building.
Projects have included the reconstruction of an elite high school in Kabul and scholarships to India for 1,000 Afghan students each year.