New Delhi: Chuck Hagel will take over as President Obama's Defense Secretary in the midst of a political firestorm over his remarks against India. Two days ago, a video of a 2011 speech made by Mr Hagel was uploaded by an online paper. He 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."
Last night, in a sharp rebuttal to Mr Hagel, the Indian embassy in Washington DC said, "Such comments attributed to Senator 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 the Afghan people"
The video of Senator Hagel's speech was sent by the office of powerful Republican Senator John Cornyn to top leaders of the Indian American community. "In light of our shared interest in the US-India relationship, thought you would want to see this," said the email sent by Mr Cornyn's office with the video.
As Nebraska Senator for two terms from 1997 to 2009, Mr Hagel was a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, frequently travelled to South Asia and voted in favour of the historic India-US civilian nuclear deal.