US President Donald Trump made light of India’s contribution towards the development of Afghanistan by recalling Modi’s mention of building a library there.
But Trump has grossly underestimated India’s efforts towards sustainable peace and development in the war-torn country. Trump was addressing a press conference where he was defending his perspective on why the US should be cutting down on overseas investments when he made this statement.
Under Trump, the US has pulled out 2,000 American troops from Syria and also cut the 14,000-strong force in Afghanistan by half. He referred to the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan and said, “Russia used to be the Soviet Union. Afghanistan made it Russia because they went bankrupt fighting in Afghanistan.” On the other hand, he was asking India, Russia, Pakistan, and other neighboring countries to take greater responsibility for Afghanistan’s security.
During his address, Trump said that while Modi and he got along, he recalled the Indian PM repeatedly insisting that he (Modi) had built a library in Afghanistan. Trump exclaimed, “You know what that is? That’s like five hours of what we spend. And we’re supposed to say, ‘Oh, thank you for the library.’ I don’t know who’s using it in Afghanistan.”
Trump’s perspective on India’s role in Afghanistan is way off the mark. India has made commitments of around US$ 3 billion in assistance to Afghanistan since the US-led armed forces overthrew the Taliban regime. These funds have gone into a number of projects including reconstruction of an elite high school in Kabul and scholarships to 1,000 Afghan students every year to come to India. India also funded the reconstruction of the Afghan parliament building in 2015 and Modi has committed to programmes that will empower the youth in the country with modern education and professional skills.
Indian sources have countered the assertion of the US President and said that developmental assistance can play a major role in transforming Afghanistan. They assert that India is involved in a number of mega infrastructure projects and community development programmes in the war-ravaged country, which will help make it economically empowered and stable.
These include the 218-km road from Zaranj to Delaram and the Salma Dam apart from the new Afghan Parliament building. In addition, India is also implementing 116 new ‘High Impact Community Development Projects’ in 31 provinces of Afghanistan, which are focussed on various areas including education, health, agriculture, irrigation, drinking water, renewable energy, flood control, micro-hydropower and sports & administrative infrastructure.
Besides this, India supports Afghanistan’s security by providing military equipment and training to its security personnel. Government sources also informed that India only sends its armed forces abroad under the specific mandate of UN Peacekeeping Operations.