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Hagel confirmed despite furore

world Updated: Feb 27, 2013 23:42 IST
Yashwant Raj
Yashwant Raj
Hindustan Times
Yashwant Raj

Chuck Hagel was confirmed as the US defence secretary on Tuesday, overcoming a concerted bid by Republicans to block him, with India suddenly getting sucked into the fight.

At 66, he becomes the first enlisted man to head the Pentagon, winning the confirmation after weeks of high drama starting with a hostile grilling by a senate committee.

India found itself drawn into this fight on Monday with a right-leaning website publishing remarks from a speech Hagel made in 2011 accusing India of causing trouble for Pakistan.

Reached for comments, the Indian embassy sought to play down the remarks, calling Hagel a "long-standing friend of India and a prominent votary of close India-US relations".

Conservative commentators pounced on Hagel's speech. "To assert that India is somehow at fault for supporting the same anti-Taliban elements that the US supports in Afghanistan borders on absurdity," wrote Lisa Curtis of conservative think tank Heritage Foundation in her blog.

Meanwhile, assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asia Robert Blake has termed India as one of the most trusted partners of the US in the Afghanistan region.