Trump mocks Modi, Congress defend ‘Indian PM’

NEW DELHI: A day after US President Donald Trump has mocked Prime Minister Narendra Modi over funding a “library” in war-torn Afghanistan, the Congress, which is PM Modi’s arch-rival in politics, has slammed Mr Trump to ‘stop mocking Indian PM’.

On Wednesday, during a press briefing, Trump criticized India and others for not doing enough for Afghanistan’s security and talked about their contributions that were nowhere near the billions of dollars the US was spending.

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Responding to the comment, senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel was quoted by news agency ANI, saying he hoped the government responds to it firmly.

“The tenor and tone of the American President describing the Prime Minister of India is not in good taste and is completely unacceptable,” senior Congress leader Ahmed Patel said.

“Hope our Government responds firmly and reminds America that since 2004, India has built extensive roads, dams in Afghanistan and pledged over $3 billion in assistance,” he added.

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Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala also joined Mr Patel in slamming Mr Trump. “Dear Mr Trump, stop mocking India’s PM. India doesn’t need sermons from the U.S on Afghanistan. Under Dr Manmohan Singh, India helped build the Afghan National Assembly. Humanitarian needs to strategic economic partnership, we are one with our Afghani brothers & sisters,” Surjewala said in a tweet on Thursday.

“Trump mocked India, a key US non-NATO partner that`s done major development work in Afghanistan, for building a library there,” Michael Kugelman, South Asia senior associate at the Washington-based Wilson Center think-tank, said on Twitter. “Sigh.”

Though India has not put its boots on Afghan soil, it has played a key 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 the ship, rail and road routes to move freight between India, Iran, Afghanistan, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Russia, Central Asia and Europe.

With agency inputs