NEW DELHI - India is defending its development assistance to Afghanistan after comments by U.S. President Donald Trump in which he mocked Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi for funding a library in the war torn country suggesting it is of no use.
Indian officials said New Delhi has been implementing a range of mega infrastructure projects that would go a long way in stabilizing the country and believes in the critical role that such assistance can play in transforming human lives.
India's comments were attributed to official sources and widely circulated to domestic media. They came a day after a news appearance by Trump at a Cabinet meeting Wednesday, in which he said he got along with Modi, but he was "constantly telling me that he built a library in Afghanistan."
"You know what that is? That's like five hours of what we spend," Trump said. "And we're supposed to say, Oh, thank you for the library.' I don't know who's using it in Afghanistan," Trump said.
Indian officials said while small libraries may have been built as part of community development projects undertaken in areas such as education and health, most of its investments in Afghanistan were on big infrastructure projects such as a more than 200 kilometer road, a dam for irrigation, and training programs for hundreds of Afghans in India.
India has provided $3 billion in assistance to Afghanistan and is the largest donor in the region to the war-torn country.
In a tweet, the general secretary of Modi's Bharatiya Janata Party, Ram Madhav, also reacted to Trump's comment saying India is building lives.
"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," he said.
May be Trump should know that while he is decrying every other help in Af, India has been building not only libraries, but roads, dams, schools n even parliament building. We are building lives, for which d Afghan people thank us, no matter what others do or don’t. https://t.co/VUOIm1nuQd— Ram Madhav (@rammadhavbjp) January 3, 2019
In an apparent response to Trump calling on India, Russia, Pakistan and other neighboring countries to take responsibility for Afghanistan's security, Indian officials said their country does not send its armed forces abroad, except under the specific mandate of U.N. Peacekeeping Operations.
Although India provides economic aid to Kabul, it has been more measured in giving military assistance, wary that Pakistan has resisted a greater role for India in Afghanistan.