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    Delhi bristles at Hagel’s Afghanistan remarks

    NEW DELHI (PAN) The Indian government and main opposition parties expressed deep reservations about old remarks of the US new defense secretary that the country "financed problems" in Afghanistan for Pakistan. 

    "Chuck 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," the Indian embassy in Washington said.

    A statement from the embassy said: "Such comments attributed to Hagel, who has been a long-standing friend of India and a prominent votary of close India-US relations are contrary to the reality of India's unbounded dedication to the welfare of Afghan people."

    In New Delhi, Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari said: "As far as Afghanistan is concerned, India has always been good towards it...I don't think there is any explanation which India requires from anybody. We have been a pre-eminent part of the nation. 

    "Therefore before anybody comments on India's role, the engagement we have in Afghanistan should be kept in mind," the minister told reporters, while commenting on remarks the ex-senator made in his speech in 2011 and were recently uploaded by an online newspaper.

    The main opposition group, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), asked the Indian government to use its diplomatic pressure to ensure Chuck Hagel retracted his statement. "BJP demands the government uses its diplomatic pressure to see that Hagel retracts his statement unconditionally," party spokesperson Rajiv Pratap Rudy said.

    Hagel purportedly 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] the tense, fragmented relationship between Pakistan and Afghanistan has been there for many, many years."
    But India said it sought to strengthen the hands of the Afghan people in bringing peace and prosperity to their country.

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