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Feb 27, 2013 at 03:20pm IST

US distances itself from Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel's anti-India comments

New Delhi: The US has distanced itself from its Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel's stand that India is building a second front in Afghanistan. In a statement, 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 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, & promoting regional economic integration and linkages."

India's embassy in Washington DC has put out a statement rejecting Hagel's allegations that India has over the years financed problems for Pakistan. "Such comments are contrary to the reality of India's unbounded dedication to the welfare of the Afghan people. India's commitment to a peaceful, stable and prosperous Afghanistan is unwavering," the Indian Embassy said in its statement.

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Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting Manish Tewari said, "India requires no explanation from anyone. We have had constructive engagement in Afghanistan."

The BJP asked the government to exert diplomatic pressure on Washington for unconditional withdrawal of his statement. The statement given by Hagel that India has financed problems in Pakistan is "outlandish, bizarre and baseless," BJP spokesperson Rajiv Pratap Rudy said.

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US President Barack Obama's choice Chuck Hagel has been confirmed as the new US Secretary of Defence. Hagel was in the news recently for his allegations that India has over the years financed problems for Pakistan. But sources say the remarks, made in 2011, may be an attempt by critics to project him as unsuitable for the job.

But Hagel's remarks could also embarrass Obama because they are in sharp contrast to US policy which views India's role in Afghanistan positively.

A video containing these remarks from an unreleased speech of Hagel at Oklahoma's Cameron University in 2011 was uploaded by Washington Free Beacon. Hagel, during the speech 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 said.