US in damage control mode over Chuck Hagel's India remarks



Zeenews Bureau

Washington: Amid the controversy stirred by the newly appointed US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel’s anti-India remarks, the US has rushed to undo the damage by reiterating India’s “positive” role in Afghanistan.

A day after the US embassy distanced itself from Chuck Hagel’s remarks that India has financed problems in Pakistan, now the US Defence Department has issued a statement appreciating India’s role in Afghanistan.

"The US Defense Department strongly supports the positive role India continues to play in Afghanistan. We continue to support India's bilateral assistance program with Afghanistan, its leadership on private sector investment there, and its leadership promoting regional economic integration and linkages," a statement by Major Cathy Wilkinson, a Defense Department spokesperson, said.

Chuck Hagel during a speech in 2011 had 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," Hagel had said.

Hagel’s remarks are in sharp contrast to Obama administration’s official stand on India’s role in Afghanistan, which has been praising India’s economic and developmental support to Afghanistan.

Earlier the US embassy also clarified in a statement that India is a valued partner in Afghanistan. The US embassy said, 'The US govt has distanced itself from the views that Chuck Hagel appeared to have held in 2011. The US embassy has reaffirmed that India is a valued partner in Afghanistan.

The United States strongly supports the positive role India continues to play in Afghanistan. We continue to support India's bilateral assistance program with Afghanistan, its leadership on private sector investment there, %26 promoting regional economic integration and linkages.'

Another clarification over India’s role in Afghanistan came by Robert Blake, Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia on Wednesday when he said,” India has taken a very kind of holistic view of what needs to be done there, and they have a $ 2 billion assistance programme.”

“They’ve hosted an investment conference. They have been a champion of this regional integration vision,” Mr. Blake said.

The statement given by Hagel had drawn ire in India, with the BJP calling it "outlandish, bizarre and baseless".