India dismisses Trump’s jibe at Modi on Afghanistan

New Delhi: India on Thursday dismissed US President Donald Trump’s remark that it is not doing enough for peace and stability in Afghanistan, with sources here saying New Delhi does not send troops abroad except under specific UN mandate.

“India firmly believes in the critical role that developmental assistance can play in transforming human lives,” a source said. “India does not send its armed forces abroad except under the specific mandate of UN peacekeeping operations.”

In his first Cabinet meeting of the year on Wednesday, Trump asked India, Russia, Pakistan and other neighbouring countries to take the responsibility for Afghanistan’s security as he defended his move to withdraw troops from that country.

Trump also referred to Prime Minister Narendra Modi Modi as an example of how world leaders were talking about their contributions that were nowhere near the billions of dollars the US was spending.

“I could give you an example where I get along very well with India and Prime Minister Modi,” Trump was quoted as saying.

“But he is constantly telling me, he built a library in Afghanistan. Library! That’s like five hours of what we spend (in Afghanistan),” he said.

“And he (Modi) tells me. He is very smart. We are supposed to say, oh thank you for the library. Don’t know who’s using it (the library) in Afghanistan. But it’s one of those things. I don’t like being taken advantage of.”

Pointing out that India plays a significant role as a development partner in Afghanistan, the sources here said this partnership was built on the specific needs and requirements worked out with the Afghan government.

“It is aimed at the welfare of the people of Afghanistan and for a tangible improvement in the lives of its people,” the source said.

“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.”

Though India has not put its boots on Afghan soil, it has played a key role role in the reconstruction efforts of the war-ravaged country, including key infrastructure projects.

These include construction of the 218-km road from Zaranj to Delaram for facilitating movement of goods and services to the Iranian border, the 220kV DC transmission line from Pul-e-Khumri to Kabul and a 220/110/20 kV sub-station at Chimtala, the Salma Dam with an installed capacity of 42 MW and the new Afghanistan Parliament building.

Also, over 3,500 Afghans are undergoing various training programmes in India. There is a special scheme of 1,000 scholarships per annum for Afghan nationals under the Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) and 500 Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) slots for Afghanistan annually.

India also provides humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan.

These include the supply of 1.1 million MT of wheat to Afghanistan and setting up the Indira Gandhi Institute of Child Health (IGICH), a 400-bed hospital in Afghanistan that caters to the well-being of children from all across that country.

India encourages private investment in Afghanistan besides community development projects including in education, health, agriculture, irrigation, drinking water, renewable energy, flood control, micro-hydropower, sports infrastructure and administrative infrastructure.

Boosting connectivity is also a key pillar of India’s partnership with Afghanistan.

The Chabahar port on the southeastern coast of Iran jointly being developed by India, Iran and Afghanistan is one such example.

India is investing $500 million to develop the Chabahar port and a road link from there to Afghanistan to give access to that country, bypassing Pakistan.

The port is also a key link in the International North South Transport Corridor (INSTC), a 7,200-km-long multi-modal network of ship, rail and road routes to move freight between India, Iran, Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Russia, Central Asia and Europe.