Chuck Hagel, a former Republication Senator from Nebraska, finally received his confirmation as US Secretary of Defence from the Senate, 58-41, late Tuesday night, after facing a bitter opposition for days from his Republican colleagues. It was mainly his more balanced views on matters of vital importance to the US that ran counter to the mainstream opinion in the country, which had made the process of confirmation hearing so “tumultuous”. Some of his feelings had found expression in 2007 in words like the “Jewish lobby intimidated lawmakers”. At other occasions he has been critical of US relations with Israel, G. W. Bush’s war on Iraq and has questioned the American policy about the Iranian nuclear enrichment programme.

And just before the upper house was moving towards voting on his nomination, the news of his sharply critical assessment of India, which he accused had “financed problems” for Pakistan broke out. A video recording of his unreleased speech at Oklahoma’s Cameron University in 2011 was uploaded by Washington Free Beacon. Hagel had 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) tense, fragmented relationship between Pakistan and Afghanistan has been there for many, many years.” That is precisely what Islamabad has been crying hoarse about. Unfortunately, however, the US and the world at large, mesmerised by the economic growth of ‘the greatest democracy’, have been ignoring these pleas as ‘propaganda’ against a traditional enemy. Quite expectedly, the Indian embassy in Washington rushed to clarify its country’s position trying to convince the world of India’s unwavering commitment to a peaceful, stable and prosperous Afghanistan and “this is reflected in our significant assistance to Afghanistan in developing its economy, infrastructure and institutional capacities.” The US appreciation of its work for the Afghan people and Hagel’s efforts to forging stronger ties between the US and India were stressed. The media reports so far do not contain any direct denial by India of Hagel’s remarks that India was financing trouble in Pakistan, except the reaction that its opposition to terrorism and safe havens in the neighbourhood is firm and unshakable.

Chuck Hagel’s observations should serve as an eye-opener for the US whose declared interest lies in a peaceful Afghanistan, Pakistan and the region as a whole. One would fervently hope that under the stewardship of the new Secretary of Defence and Secretary of State John Kerry, also known for his eminently rational view of the situation, the Obama administration would actively work to dissuade New Delhi from creating any further mischief in Pakistan to pave the way for an understanding relationship to develop between the two subcontinental powers.