New Delhi, Feb 26: India sharply rebutted US Defense Secretary nominee Chuck Hagel’s allegations that it has over the years “financed problems” for Pakistan in Afghanistan, saying New Delhi has consistently received support and encouragement from Washington for its constructive role there.
Hagel had suggested in a previously unreleased 2011 speech that “India has over the years financed problems for Pakistan” in Afghanistan. He made the remark during a 2011 address on Afghanistan at Oklahoma’s Cameron University, according to a video of the speech obtained by the Washington Free Beacon.
The video containing the remarks was uploaded by Washington Free Beacon, sparking a strong reaction from the India embassy.
“Our embassy in Washington DC has already responded at length on this subject. The government of India has close and frequent discussions with the United States on all issues of mutual interest including on Afghanistan, and we have consistently received support and encouragement from our US partners for our constructive role in Afghanistan,” said an official source.
In his 2011 speech, Hagel said: “India for some time has always used Afghanistan as a second front, and India has over the years financed problems for Pakistan on that side of the border.”
“And you can carry that into many dimensions, the point being [that] the tense, fragmented relationship between Pakistan and Afghanistan has been there for many, many years.”
The Indian Embassy in Washington said the comments attributed to Hagel “who has been a long-standing friend of India and a prominent votary of close India-US relations are contrary to the reality of India’s unbounded dedication to the welfare of Afghan people”.
India’s commitment to a peaceful, stable and prosperous Afghanistan is unwavering “and this is reflected in our significant assistance to Afghanistan in developing its economy, infrastructure and institutional capacities”, the embassy said.
“Our opposition to terrorism and its safe havens in our neighborhood is firm and unshakeable.”
It said India’s development assistance “has been deeply appreciated by the people and the government of Afghanistan, and by our friends around the world, including the United States”. “We do not view our engagement with Afghanistan as a zero sum game.”
The embassy said both India and the US “have a shared perspective and a deep convergence of interests for ensuring peace and stability in Afghanistan”.
“We will continue to work to help the Afghan people build a peaceful, prosperous, democratic and inclusive future for themselves in an environment free from terror and intimidation”.
Hagel is widely expected to be confirmed by the US Senate, more than a month after he was first nominated by President Barack Obama.