New Delhi: Developmental assistance can play a major role in transforming Afghanistan, official sources said Thursday, rejecting US President Donald Trump's jibe at Prime Minister Narendra Modi over funding of a 'library' in the war-ravaged country and asking 'who's using it'.
The sources said India has been implementing a range of mega infrastructure projects as well as community development programmes in Afghanistan as per requirement of its people and the initiatives are crucial for their socio-economic welfare.
While referring to billions of dollars the US was spending in Afghanistan, Trump, during a cabinet meeting, brought up contributions by India and several other countries and referred to Modi as an example of how world leaders were talking about their developmental assistance in the country.
"I could give you an example where I get along very well with India and Prime Minister Modi. But he is constantly telling me, he built a library in Afghanistan. Library! That's like five hours of what we spend (in Afghanistan)," Trump said.
It is not clear what project Trump was referring to when he talked about "library", or whether he was talking about the Afghan Parliament building.
The sources said India may be building small libraries as part of the community development initiative, but most of its investments in Afghanistan were on mega infrastructure projects including the 218 km road from Zaranj to Delaram, the Salma Dam and the new Afghan Parliament building.
India has committed USD 3 billion in assistance to Afghanistan since 2001 when the Taliban was removed from power.
India has given four military helicopters to Afghanistan which has been trying to strengthen its air power. India has also been supplying military equipment to Afghanistan besides providing training to hundreds of Afghan security personnel.
The sources said India plays a significant role in the country as its development partner and that the partnership is built on the specific needs and requirements worked out with the Afghan government.
"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," said a source.
Besides mega infrastructure projects, India is implementing 116 new 'High Impact Community Development Projects' in 31 provinces of Afghanistan, including in the areas of education, health, agriculture, irrigation, drinking water, renewable energy, flood control, micro-hydropower, sports infrastructure, administrative infrastructure.
India constructed the 218 km road from Zaranj to Delaram for facilitating movement of goods and services to the Iranian border. The highway will connect Iran with the Garland Highway, which links Kabul, Kandahar, Mazar-e-Sharif Herat and Kunduz.
India also laid a 220kV transmission line from Pul-e-Khumri to Kabul and set up a 220/110/20 kV sub-station at Chimtala.
The transmission line not only brings electricity and light to smaller towns and villages but also provides a key element of security for Afghan and US forces, sources said.
The Salma Dam, built by India, has an installed capacity of 42 MW and supplies water for irrigating 75,000 hectares of land. Since inauguration in 2016, the project has been generating electricity and releasing water for irrigation, sources said.
Recently, India supplied 1.1 million MT of wheat to Afghanistan
India and Afghanistan launched a direct air freight corridor in 2017, primarily to encourage trade between the two countries.
India is also involved in development of Iran's Chabahar port which will provide trade route to Afghanistan.