Richard Nixon’s secrets are out. He was a skunk. Widely disliked in America and outside, he became the only US President forced to resign. Henry Kissinger, the intellectual who exploited Nixon’s lack of intellect, was a cunning operator who used his President’s weakness to show off his own strength. It was a gloomy, cynical period of history for America and the world. Declassified White House tapes have now revealed sensational details. Nixon comes out as a racist whose personal prejudices cast a shadow on world affairs for five eventful years (1969-1974).
This was the time when Pakistan’s attempt to crush the Bangladesh movement developed into a genocide. Bangladeshis received humanitarian support from India, which enraged Nixon-Kissinger. Nixon’s questions about India led Kissinger to explain: “Indians are superb flatterers, Mr President. They are masters of subtle flattery. That’s how they survived 600 years. Their great skill is to suck up to people in key positions.”
Nixon must have been pleased to hear that. His antipathy to Indians spewed out in words that were astonishing. In one taped conversation, he could be heard describing Indians as “the most sexless, nothing, these people. I mean, people say what about Black Africans? Well, you can say something, the vitality there, I mean they have a little animal-like charm, but God, those Indians, ack, pathetic. Uch!”After his meeting with Indira Gandhi in 1971, Nixon told Kissinger: “To me, they turn me off. How the hell do they turn other people on, Henry? Tell me. They are repulsive and it’s just easy to be tough with them.” On another occasion in 1971, he went so far as to say, “I don’t know how they reproduce.”
Perhaps, Nixon made advances to an Indian woman and was rebuffed resolutely; she must have found him stinky. How else can one explain the bizarre opinions he expressed? His distaste for Indira Gandhi turned him into a generic India hater. Nixon-Kissinger’s attempt to blame India for the collapse of what was ‘East Pakistan’ was a historical blunder. East Pakistan was steeped in Bengali culture and Bengali culture is famously uncompromising in its Bengaliness. The Pathan culture is so alien to Bengalis that it didn’t have a chance when Pakistan tried to impose it on its eastern wing. It was an invitation to the east wing to break away. The only surprise is that the Pathans did not see what was so obvious.
Kissinger took his revenge by calling Indians “a scavenging people”. This so-called intellectual had racist contempt for Pakistanis, too. Once he told Nixon: “I tell you, the Pakistanis are fine people, but they are primitive in their mental structure. They just don’t have the subtlety of the Indians.” Now, we get an insight into the complete failure of the Nixon-Kissinger policies in South Asia. They were not only morally despicable; they were strategically bumbling.
In time Kissinger visited Delhi and Narendra Modi played host. But nothing can excuse the harm Kissinger did in his years of power and influence. The declassified tapes reveal him describing Indians as “the most aggressive people around” and even calling Indira Gandhi a “b...ch.” Officially India never stood up to decry this and expose Kissinger for the selfish careerist that he was. It’s unlikely that India has tapes it can declassify and show an Indian leader calling Nixon a “b....” We will say our culture is different. The world will say Indians are simply incompetent when it comes to the complications of diplomacy. Can we fault the world?
Let the essential details of history be never forgotten. When Bangladesh was trying to free itself from Pakistani Pathans’ stranglehold, America sent the USS Enterprise to the Bay of Bengal as a warning to India. There was credible talk at the time that Nixon tried to instigate China to attack India. What was suspicion then was confirmed as fact when Kissinger met China’s permanent representative to the UN Huang Hua in New York in 1971. Dropping diplomatic nuances, Kissinger directly told the Chinese official that if China attacked India, the US would support it and persuade Russia not to intervene.
It is easy to say that Kissinger did all this out of his hatred for India. It is easy to condemn hate. But hate seems to rule the world. Is it built into us all? Whites hating browns, browns hating blacks, blacks hating whites and browns. Is racism all around us and inside us whether we recognise it or not? Is the acceptance of hate an excuse to justify immorality in politics?