The bond between Kabul and Delhi is both old and strong
The years of bloodshed in Afghanistan have had one very obvious effect on the overwhelming majority of my people. There is little, if any, appetite among us for hatred. We know better than anyone where that can lead.
So, if President Trump wanted to stir up ill feeling here against India with his comments mocking Narendra Modi, the country’s Prime Minister, for funding what he described as a “library” here, then he has failed.
His callous misreading, too of the history of our region — somehow suggesting the Soviet Union went bankrupt trying to keep order here, when in fact they invaded us — also hasn’t created any ill feeling towards Americans working among us or who are on active service.
The fact is, Indians and Americans have become a part of our community — so many of them have become personal friends — that we are incapable of feeling anything towards them but warmth and affection. In terms of America, we know the ordinary people of any country can never be held accountable for their politicians. What country, after all, hasn’t occasionally lived to regret a rash choice at the ballot box?
Immediately after Trump’s comments reached us here, ordinary Afghans took to social networking sites, such as Twitter, to say how much they appreciated what India has done for us. “India is a respected friend,” one young man wrote. Another posted: “India and Afghans are true, loyal and honest friends.”
First, a few facts. I don’t know of any library funded by India — but we owe the country for our Parliament building that was opened in 2015 and some major infrastructure projects, such as the 218 km road from Zaranj to Delaram and the India-Afghanistan friendship dam in Herat. In terms of culture and sport, India restored the Storay Palace in Kabul and built the cricket stadium in Kandahar.
India has also been supplying military equipment to us, in addition to providing training to hundreds of our security personnel. India is also in the process of implementing 116 new “High Impact Community Development Projects” in 31 of my country’s provinces — including in the areas of education, health, agriculture, irrigation, drinking water, renewable energy, flood control, micro-hydropower, sports infrastructure, administrative infrastructure.
As for America, we are of course aware, too, how much we are in that country’s debt. We do not need Trump to tell us. I myself owe it a huge amount for the education it is giving me at the American University in Kabul. I don’t dispute for one moment, either, Trump’s assertion that the country has paid out billions of dollars over the years to keep my country secure. More than that, its brave military personnel have fought and died here, alongside those of other nations, such as Great Britain.
Trump may be trying to realign the old world order, but it is worth remembering that my people paid a terrible price fighting against the Soviet Union after its invasion of 1979 — when we were seen to be fighting on a few fronts for the western world — with more than two million of my people killed and handicapped, a further seven million made homeless — and we had the dubious distinction of becoming the most mined country on the planet.
Trump’s comments questioning America’s commitment to Afghanistan have created a great deal of unease here in Kabul at the start of the New Year. They have certainly given a lot of us sleepless nights. What can be said with certainty, however, is that no matter how capricious the current resident of the White House may be, the friendships that have been among ordinary Afghans and Indians and Americans – in an environment that is quite as tough as this one is — will endure.
The citizens of both these countries have been there for us when it’s counted and that’s not something you ever forget. That at least gives me optimism for the future. I do believe in my heart that common humanity will prevail.