NEW DELHI – Indian External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid on Wednesday downplayed Chuck Hagel’s remarks that New Delhi had over the years financed problems for Pakistan, saying the US Defense Secretary nominee had made no such statement.
“He has made no such statement. You are talking about some lecture given in a university two years ago. I cannot react to something he said about two years ago,” Khurshid told media outside the Parliament here. Khurshid earlier in the day said Indian Embassy in Washington had conveyed New Delhi’s concern in this regard.
“What we had to say, we have said it through our High Commission. At this point of time, we don’t require to say anything further officially. We welcome the new political developments there. But we will not speak further on the discussions that are presently on there until it comes to us in a formal manner,” he added.
Meanwhile, Indian Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari commenting on the controversy said India had always played a positive and developmental role in Afghanistan
“I think Chuck Hagel should check these facts,” he added.
Senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Yashwant Sinha on his part disapproved Hagel’s alleged remarks, and asked the Congress-led UPA government to give a befitting reply to the US.
“It’s very serious if a person like Chuck Hagel has such views. We ask the government to give a befitting reply to the US on this,” he said.
The Indian embassy in Washington has sharply rejected Hagel’s statement that New Delhi financed problems in Afghanistan to create trouble for Pakistan.
“Senator Hagel’s remarks are in sharp contrast to the viewpoint of the Obama administration that has always been in praise of India’s developmental role in Afghanistan and in fact has been pressing New Delhi to do more in Afghanistan,” a statement by the Indian embassy in Washington clarified.
The contentious remarks are part of a speech by Hagel in 2011, which was uploaded recently by an online newspaper.
“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,” said Hagel.
“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,” he added.
Hagel, a former Republican senator, would succeed Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, who is stepping down after four years as CIA Director and Pentagon chief.