Chuck Hagel stirs up India-US storm over Afghanistan

 
File photo: Soldier in Afghanistan India is sensitive about any questioning of its motives for being in Afghanistan

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New US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel has stirred up a sudden storm in a chai glass here, with past suggestions that India has been using Afghanistan as a "second front" against its old rival Pakistan.

"India has over the years financed problems for Pakistan" in Afghanistan, said Mr Hagel in a 2011 speech at the previously little-known foreign policy seed-bed of Oklahoma University.

If nothing else, it showed what a liability the internet can be for politicians who would wish for their past thoughts to be forgotten.

For Mr Hagel's Republican opponents, it was just a few clicks' work to ferret out the speech, get it online via a sympathetic outlet, then picked up 10.5 time zones away.

'Contrary to reality'

They must have been pleased at the rapid reaction, with India's embassy in Washington slapping down Mr Hagel's comments as "contrary to the reality". The Pakistani media predictably jumped on the story too.

File photo: US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel Mr Hagel made the remarks in 2011

However, having already hurdled charges of being anti-Israel, a last-minute accusation of being anti-India as well wasn't enough to stop Mr Hagel's nomination going through.

India is always sensitive about any questioning of its motives for being in Afghanistan. But officials are not that concerned about an old speech, or that the US is now turning against Indian involvement in Afghanistan.

"We have consistently received support and encouragement from our US partners for our constructive role in Afghanistan," says Syed Akbaruddin, spokesman for India's ministry of external affairs.

In fact, Delhi has sometimes appeared the reticent one, for example resisting calls from Washington to expand its training of Afghan security forces.

There's another reason, though, why this little episode may be more significant - because it highlights a bigger question over where relations between Delhi and Washington are going.

Mired in suspicion

The high hopes for a new era of relations after a nuclear deal have "simply not panned out", says Professor Bharat Karnad at the Centre for Policy Research.

Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai (L) shakes hands with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in New Delhi, 12 November 2012 India says the US has supported its "constructive role" in Afghanistan

Instead, the two sides seem mired in misunderstandings and suspicion over everything from arms deals to technology.

And while India shares US concerns about China's rise, it has been wary of becoming a "cat's paw" of American interests.

It was former President George W Bush who got things going, ending decades of often frosty relations between the world's two largest democracies. And many see the end of his time in the White House as the high water mark.

"Republicans are always better for India," says Mr Karnad. "They have a much better strategic sense than the Democrats."

In fact, Mr Obama seemed interested in moving things on in his first term, but he seems to have other priorities in his second. And India fears it has lost its best supporters, with Hillary Clinton leaving the state department and Leon Panetta the Pentagon.

An Indian official admits "the jury is still out on Kerry and Hagel".

 
Andrew North Article written by Andrew North Andrew North South Asia correspondent

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  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 73.

    72.ConnorMacLeod
    "Try to accept our aid with good grace."
    INDIA DOES NOT NEED UK AID ANYMORE.
    Why is that UK had a rethink about the aid when Inda refused to buy eurofighter? Dont you think the money that you give in the name of aid is indeed has an element of bribery in it?
    Indians do not need any advice from you about the problems of the govt. People trust the govt more than the Brits.

  • rate this
    -5

    Comment number 72.

    41.Ankit

    India's total spending on social welfare schemes and subsidies to the poor is MASSIVE

    Doesn't that worry you ? If they are spending so much money and are STILL unable to sort the problem that suggests that...
    1) The government are hopelessly inefficient and impractical
    2) The government are mired in corruption
    3) Both of the above

    Try to accept our aid with good grace.

  • Comment number 71.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 70.

    India can indentify herself more with European powers like France and UK or countries like Israel and Russia, which have been more reliable in the past. Indo-US links were never great in the past and statements of people like Mr. Hagel do not help. In any case, the fates of Dr. Jonas Savimbi and Pres. Diem and Noriega demonstrate how reliable the US can be, as an ally.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 69.

    Hagel's comments were when he was a senator, published now and he is right in his own sense
    PAK - INDIA - two nation problem is gonna be present for foreseable future, No one supports either when they if go to war. Given a chance they would do the same as well and in fact its a long standing issue seen in kashmir

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 68.

    It's the University of Oklahoma, and Vicente Fox, Colin Powell, an English MEP, and Bill Clinton were all visitors within during my three years there. They recently opened a center for US-China relations as well. Oklahoma and Texas are actually more aware and interested internationally than much of the US because of oil and gas, and also compassionate projects.

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 67.

    And it is high time we send the 3 million afghan refugees (taken care of by pakistan for over 30 years) back to afghanistan so india can also take care of them.Since the only purpose india has in afghanistan is humanitarian(which is ironic considering the 100s of millions of indians living below the poverty line while the government is busy in corruption)

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 66.

    Another important fact conveniently ignored by indians is that if Pakistan has the ISI, then india has RAW....and that RAW is NOT a non-profit charity organization (believe it or not) :). they are involved in many terrorist attacks in pakistan both pre- and post 9/11(same goes for ISI in india).
    Remember SAMJHOTA EXPRESS.
    You know you have Homegrown terrorists. (hyderabad bombings ring a bell?)

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 65.

    @64theresamprice
    They why on Earth did the USA come into afghanistan in the first place?
    Now you are running back with your tails between your legs(not meant to be offensive but it is the harsh reality), when the taliban are more powerful than ever in this last decade. and pakistan is left to deal with your mess!

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 64.

    First Sergeants identify conflicts and take to account those who won't work together as a TEAM. I support the US SecDef. We can't tolerate this enemy of my enemy stuff any longer. The storm already existed! SecDef Hagel has 99 problems and spoilers in India ain't one of them. Pakistan & India sort out your personal issues; leave the US in AFG out of it. NATO forces are done.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 63.

    As a Pakistani it comes as no surprise that india has been destabilizing pakistan using afghan territory. that is to be expected, i mean if the roles were reversed, we would be doing the same. What is surprising though is the complete ignorance/denial of these realities supposedly "educated" and "intelligent" indians.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 62.

    Stop India Bashing. Except for the Traitors of India holding power in Delhi, most Indians know what U.S. is up to for India. Why not just look at David Headly Coleman's example American Citizen Terrorist who is branded as Pakistani/American. Does that make any diff? Pak/American or American/Pak? The fact is at the moment Headly is sheltered in U.S. without extradition to India - WHY?!

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 61.

    Hagel should know better, whether is financing problems for Pakistan OR the proven FACT that U.S. is constantly financing PAKISTAN since ages purposely against India, to Divide, Destabilize, Weaken, and Control India. Latest evidence is the American Terrorist DAVID HEADLY COLEMAN who is sheltered, in U.S. dishonoring extradition treaty with India. Khalistan movement was also financed by them.

  • rate this
    +9

    Comment number 60.

    Being an ally of America is nothing to be proud of, just means you get involved in all their misplaced ideas for worldwide domination. William Hague are you listening to this?

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 59.

    @Paul (56): You have no idea how many Indians blame the British for the partition of India. I simply couldn't convince my mother otherwise, even using the same facts you pointed out. At the end of the day though, I think Indians like my mother (and we live in the states), whose father was a staunch supporter of independence, STILL trust the UK as an ally far more than they do the US!

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 58.

    @51: The Indians will always be cold towards Israel because of their own experiences with colonialism. They understand that the Israelis are European invaders that have dispossessed the indigenous Palestinian population and subject them to daily humiliation much like their own experiences with the British. Google the great Indian Gandhi's position on Israel and you'll see what I mean.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 57.

    The Indians are 100% right to be wary of the Americans. The US has no concept of an ally. "What have you done for me lately?" is always the US position. Countries like the UK & Australia think they're building up brownie points through complete & utter subjugation to the US in the belief that they can cash these in at some point in the future. They are wrong. In the UK's case, think Falklands etc

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 56.

    Oh Mr Jaito March the British had nothing to do with the division of India. It was Indian Muslums who wouldn't live with the Hindu's and Sikh's which resulted in the formation of Pakistan. The British had already gone!!!

    Nonetheless, India will in 5 years be a larger economy than the pathetic UK

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 55.

    the really interesting question seems to be: who needs who more? america? they need to isolate china and with their declining power they need all allies they can get. india? their economy is in dire straits and they need a strong hand to help curtail pakistan. will they trust america though? india seems to be blessed with options, but little time to make decisions. we do live in interesting times!

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 54.

    Despite enormous problems remaining, India is making phenomenal progress. China has made far more progress. The comparison may be less lop-sided, with possible cooking the books in China. India is producing record amount of food, stopped the infiltration from Pakistan, stood up to the Chinese in Arunachal Pradesh. How about solving Pakistan Occupied Kashmir, Aksai Chin and Chinese Occupied Tibet ?

 

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