India had formally expressed its concern to United States on comments about India’s role in Afghanistan made by US Secretary of Defence Chuck Hagel, in 2011, before his confirmation earlier this year.
This was revealed by Minister of State for External Affairs Preneet Kaur in a reply to a question in the Lok Sabha recently.
“Prior to his confirmation, our Embassy reflected India’s concerns at these remarks to the US Department of State,” she said.
On the eve of Hagel’s senate confirmation, a Washington-based conservative news website had released a 2011 speech by him at the Cameron University, in a last minute bid to lobby the Indian-American bloc.
“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,” said Hagel in his 2011 speech.
After the video was released, the US Embassy in New Delhi had to issue a statement that Washington had “distanced itself from the views that Chuck Hagel appeared to have held in 2011”.
When External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid was asked about his views about Hagel’s remarks, he was non-committal.
“I cannot react to something he said two years ago,” Khurshid had told reporters in February.
But with Kaur’s reply in parliament, it is clear that India did take the comments seriously enough to take it up with Washington.
Kaur further said that the comments by Chuck Hagel “were in his private capacity since he was neither a member of the US Government nor of the US Congress at that time”.