By: Adam Kredo – Washington Free Beacon
Secretary of defense nominee Chuck Hagel suggested in a previously unreleased 2011 speech that India has “for many years” sponsored terrorist activities against Pakistan in Afghanistan.
“India has over the years financed problems for Pakistan” in Afghanistan, Hagel said during a 2011 address regarding Afghanistan at Oklahoma’s Cameron University, according to video of the speech obtained by the Free Beacon.
The controversial comments mark a departure from established United States policy in the region and could increase tensions between the Obama administration and India should the Senate confirm Hagel on Tuesday, according to experts.
“It’s both over-the-top and a sharp departure from a U.S. position that has seen democratic India as a stabilizing influence in Afghanistan and Asia more broadly,” said Sadanand Dhume, former India bureau chief at the Far Eastern Economic Review and current resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.
“It’s also exactly the sort of statement that would have frayed ties with New Delhi, which has been watching the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan with concern,” Dhume said, referring to the administration’s plan to remove most military forces from the war-torn country in the coming months.
Hagel’s nomination has been stalled for more than a week after Senate Democrats failed to secure the 60 votes needed to end a Republican filibuster of the nomination. GOP lawmakers have continued to express concern over Hagel’s controversial stance on Israel, the Jewish community, and Iran, positions they say leave him unfit to serve in such a sensitive post.
The U.S. has long viewed India as a key ally in its fight against terrorism in the porous border regions between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Tensions have arisen between India and Pakistan over the latter’s failure to stymie terrorist activities.
Hagel appears to accuse India of fueling tensions with Pakistan, claiming it is using Afghanistan “as a second front” against Pakistan.
“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,” Hagel says in the speech. “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’s comments reflect a “paranoid” worldview, India expert Dhume said.
“This statement reflects the views of the more paranoid elements of the Pakistan establishment more than mainstream U.S. opinion,” he said. “It’s a dated way of looking at a part of the world important to U.S. interests in Asia.”