President Trump's jibe at India was a gaffe

World

05 Jan 2019

Trump mistook India-built parliament in Afghanistan for a 'library'

US President Donald Trump's jibe about India building a library in Afghanistan is coming back to haunt him now.

Miffed at the jibe, Indian officials pored through India's reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan, but the 'library' could not be found.

Instead, it appears that President Trump mistook Afghanistan's parliament house, built by India, to be a library.

Well, that's another addition to Trump's collection of gaffes.

Jibe

Trump had taken a swing at India earlier this week

Trump had taken a swing at India earlier this week

Earlier this week, during his first cabinet meeting of 2019, President Trump expressed dissatisfaction about New Delhi's role in the peacemaking process in Afghanistan.

Raising questions about why India was not fighting the Taliban, President Trump ridiculed India by saying that all it had done was build a library in Afghanistan.

Understandably, the comment did not go down well with New Delhi, which has spent $3bn-$5bn on reconstruction efforts in war-torn Afghanistan.

Trump's exact words about India's Afghanistan 'library'

"I get along very well with India and PM Modi. But he's constantly telling me, he built a library in Afghanistan. Library! That's like five hours of what we spend there...We are supposed to say, oh thank you for the library. Don't know who's using it in Afghanistan," President Trump had said.

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Confusion

Trump's comments left Indian officials confused

Although President Trump's comment angered India, it left Indian officials more confused than angry.

Officials pored through records in vain, and even the most experienced of India's officials in Afghanistan could not recall a library being built in the 18 years India has carried out reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan.

So, what could explain this mythical 'library' President Trump had referred to?

Parliament

The crown jewel of India's reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan

The crown jewel of India's reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan

Among the numerous reconstruction initiatives taken by India in Afghanistan since 2001, India is particularly proud of the parliament house it built in the war-torn country.

The initiative to build the parliament house was launched in 2005 by then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and then Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

It was inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani in 2015.

The parliament house was built by an Indian company

The parliament house in Kabul was built by an Indian private company under the oversight of the Public Works Department (PWD) of India at a cost of $90mn. More than 500 laborers had worked on the building, most of them Indian nationals.

Gaffe

PM Modi had mentioned the parliament in a meeting

Subsequently, in June 2017, PM Modi met President Trump at the White House for a meeting.

During the meeting, the topic of Afghanistan came up, and PM Modi told President Trump about the parliament house India had built in the Afghan capital of Kabul.

It is understood that the US President, who is no stranger to making arbitrary statements, confused PM Modi's parliament house pitch for a 'library' during the recent cabinet meeting.

When Trump got it 'all wrong'

"The prime minister [Modi] spoke to President Trump about the parliament building during their discussion on Afghanistan at the White House meeting," a person present during the June 26 meeting told HT on the condition of anonymity, adding that President Trump got it "all wrong".

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