Almost as if to emphasise that there would be no change in Washington’s view on India’s role in Afghanistan, Robert Blake, Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia, said in a Congressional hearing that “any discussion of South Asia has to start with India”, and that the State Department viewed India “as kind of the economic linchpin for future” as far as its’ significant role in Afghanistan was concerned.
Mr. Blake’s upbeat comments to members of the Asia-Pacific Subcommittee of the House Foreign Affairs Committee came a day after a video surfaced of Chuck Hagel, now confirmed as Secretary of Defence, hinting at India’s alleged role in fuelling instability between Afghanistan and Pakistan along the Durand Line.
In the 2011 video, published by conservative media outlet Washington Free Beacon, he was seen saying,
“India has over the years financed problems for Pakistan... India for sometime has always used Afghanistan as a second front... and you can carry that into many dimensions.”
Despite these remarks and fierce resistance from Congressional Republicans to his nomination on Tuesday, Mr. Hagel was confirmed to the top Pentagon job in a narrow, 58-to-41 vote.
In a statement on what he described as Mr. Hagel’s “bipartisan confirmation”, President Barack Obama said, “I will be counting on Chuck’s judgment and counsel as we end the war in Afghanistan, bring our troops home, stay ready to meet the threats of our time and keep our military the finest fighting force in the world.”