July 04, 2005
1971-A swear story
Last week, the US State Department released declassified documents relating to the 1971 India-Pakistan war which resulted in Bangladesh becoming an independent nation. The then US President Richard Nixon referred to the then Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi as a "bitch". His Assistant for National Security Affairs, Henry Kissinger, talked of Indians being bastards and also referred to Indira Gandhi as a "bitch".
I think in general, there has been an over-reaction to this, especially in the Indian media and among the "public", as is indicated by the various letters to "The Hindu". Nixon and Kissinger were perfectly entitled to say what they wanted to about Indira Gandhi and Indians. That they did so with the knowledge that transcripts would be released at most thirty years later implies that they were either fools or were willing to stick up for themselves at a later date. Nitin rightly points out that we will never know what Indira said since that information is unlikely to be declassified.
Do I really care if Kissinger or Nixon made all these statements? Where do you think Nixon would figure in an all-time ranking of US Presidents? He was nearly impeached for his role in the Watergate Scandal. Kissinger hung around in government till the 1980s and after that he has restricted himself to authoring books, speaking at conferences, offering his expert views etc. He found himself in trouble over the outcome of a number of decisions he recommended/took when in government. Oh, and for the record, in spite of what Nixon, Kissinger and the rest of the US government tried to do, India won the war, Bangladesh became an independent country and Pakistan licked its wounds.
But what is striking in these revelations is that thirty years later, it is blatantly obvious that US policy towards Pakistan's atrocities and terrorism, whether in East Pakistan, or in Jammu & Kashmir, is unchanged. Pakistan looks the other way when a natural disaster hits J & K. Yet, its cricket loving President is very comfortable coming up with outrageous ideas and unrealistic timelines to resolve the dispute. So it seems obvious, to me at least, that the welfare of the people of J & K is last on its agenda.
The US mentions nothing about Pakistan's involvement in Jammu & Kashmir in its State Department's Human Rights report for 2004. It sells F-16s to Pakistan and dangles carrots to India in order to keep its defence industry personnel employed. The Secretary of State praises Pakistan for being a model Islamic state. There're too many of them to list out here.
"The Hindu"'s editorial talks about how ironic it is that Indira Gandhi's steely resolve has been revealed by US documents rather than Indian ones.
Inder Kumar Malhotra feels that the US behaviour was entirely in conformance to its standard practices and the US intelligence's failure in estimating that India wanted to go to war with Pakistan to break it up was reflected three decades later with the fiasco over WMDs in Iraq.
Yesterday's supplement section in "The Hindu" had a very nice feature on Nixon's pro-Pakistan "tilt".