In­dia balks at Trump’s Afghanistan li­brary jibe

Congress Party re­jects ‘ser­mons’ from the US

Global Times - Weekend - - FRONT PAGE - Reuters

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.”

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