The new US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel has started his tenure with a serious glitch in his diplomatic record, as a previously unseen video of him commenting on India’s alleged involvement in financing problems for Pakistan beyond its border with neighbouring Afghanistan. Hagel, purportedly a reluctant warrior, has been roped in by Barack Obama to basically oversee a tolerably clean surgery vis-a-vis the extrication of US involvement in conflict-ridden Afghanistan and Iraq, with withdrawal of troops already taking place. However, Hagel seems to be parroting an outdated view that is fomented by the extremist fringe elements in Pakistan, instead of articulating a refined approach that the present day world order demands from US-India cooperation. In a sharp departure from the official US position that has acknowledged India’s considerable role as a stabilising factor in Afghanistan, Hagel’s unmerited candour is symptomatic of misinformed opinions that affect a large section of insulated US officials when it comes to dealing with a rising world power like India.
The import of Hagel’s gratuitous accusations, which the respective embassies in New Delhi and Washington have tried to counter by massaging the wounded Indian pride and belatedly firing salvo to settle the matter, need to be seen in the context of the hidden costs and causes of the more than a decade-long Afghan war that America has been forging much to it own detriment. That US multinational companies have been lining up to cash in on a useless war on drugs manufactured in Afghanistan’s extensive opium trade, is an open secret. The fact that CIA had been deeply involved in the production of Taliban terrorists and promotion of narcotics trade in the 1980s, is also not unknown. The chief reason for US military presence in the Af-Pak region has been to control the global drug trade, which has been spiralling out of control ever since. Hagel should first seek to cleanse the stink from the reservoir of the coffers that have been with with the ‘high octane’ money from drug cartelisation in the first place before accusing India of destabilising the region.