indica News Bureau –
In his first Cabinet meeting of the year, US President Donald Trump took a dig at Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi for funding a library in Afghanistan, wondering who would use it in the war-torn nation.
Trump spoke of his friendly terms with Modi, but he said that building a library was nowhere near the “billions of dollars” the US was spending on India’s closest neighbor.
“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 told his cabinet colleagues.
Trump seemed to be irked by the fact that countries bordering Afghanistan, like Russia, India and Pakistan, were not doing enough in the war-ravaged country and that they were taking advantage of the United States.
“Why is not Russia there (in Afghanistan, fighting the Taliban)? Why isn’t India there? Why isn’t Pakistan there? Why are we (US) there? We are 6,000 miles away,” Trump told reporters in response to a question during the Cabinet meeting.
Trump’s jibe came weeks after an unnamed defense official said that Pentagon plans to withdraw 7,000 of about 14,000 troops in Afghanistan, which the White House later rejected.
Trump has repeatedly said that he was eager to bring troops home from overseas so he could focus on defending US borders.
He has consistently slammed the 17-year-old war in Afghanistan that has cost about 2,300 American lives. In 2017, he unwillingly agreed to allow about 4,000 more troops to be sent to the country last year.
India, meanwhile, has rejected Trump’s sneer saying that development assistance can play a major role in transforming Afghanistan.
Official sources said India has been implementing a range of mega infrastructure projects as well as carrying out community development programmes in Afghanistan as per requirement of its people, which would go a long way in making the country economically empowered and stable.
India has committed $3 billion in assistance to Afghanistan since US-led forces toppled the extremist Taliban regime post 9/11 attacks.
Most of its India’s 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.
India has also been supplying military equipment to Afghanistan besides providing training to hundreds of Afghan security personnel.
It has taken up 116 High Impact Community Development Projects in 31 provinces of Afghanistan.
New Delhi has been involved in a number of development programmes for education, capacity building, skills and human resource development in Afghanistan. It is one of the largest such programmes in the world, will continue for a further period of five years from 2017 to 2022.
This is not the first time Trump has jeered at the Indian PM. He had earlier revealed that Modi had called him up to inform that India had reduced import duty on motorcycles. “Big deal”, the US President had then exclaimed.
In the aftermath of 9/11 attacks, the US has appropriated about $126 billion for relief and reconstruction, including $78 billion for security, according to a July report from a Pentagon watchdog.
But despite all the money and US presence, conditions in Afghanistan have been far from peaceful.