India balks at Trump’s Afghanistan library jibe
Congress Party rejects ‘sermons’ from the US
India’s ruling and opposition parties condemned US President Donald Trump’s comments this week mocking New Delhi’s role in war-torn Afghanistan, where the South Asian country has invested billions of dollars in economic projects and military training.
The US and India have drawn closer in recent years. But Trump’s apparent bid to undermine India’s developmental work in Afghanistan has annoyed not just politicians but also many ordinary Indians.
Trump said on Wednesday he got along very well with Indian Prime Minister Narenda Modi but that Modi 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 told reporters. “And we are supposed to say, ‘oh, thank you for the library.’ I don’t know who is us- ing it in Afghanistan.”
It was not immediately clear which library Trump was referring to, but both Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the main opposition Congress were united in their criticism of the US president.
“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,” Ram Madhav, a BJP general secretary, said on Twitter.
“We are building lives, for which the Afghan people thank us, no matter what others do or don’t.”
Congress said India did not “need sermons from the US on Afghanistan.”
The US has 14,000 troops in Afghanistan, with reports saying it may be set to withdraw more than 5,000, a sign Trump’s patience is thinning with America’s longest war.
Trump has decided to pull all US troops out of Syria.
Modi’s office did not respond to an e-mail seeking comment. Reuters could not reach the White House outside regular business hours in the US.
India is the biggest South Asian donor to Afghanistan, spending around $2 billion on reconstruction and rehabilitation, according to the Indian embassy in Kabul. Over the past few years India has helped Afghanistan build roads, erect power transmission lines and construct a parliament building.
Kabul has not yet responded to Trump’s comments.
“Trump mocked India, a key U.S. non-NATO partner that’s done major development work in Afghanistan, for building a library there,” Michael Kugelman, South Asia senior associate at the Wilson Center think tank, said on Twitter. “Sigh.”