As the USS Nimitz gently rocks in the peaceful waters near the port of Chennai, some turbulence between India and the United States has been detected courtesy a blast from the past. The timing of American historian Robert Dallek’s book, Nixon and Kissinger: Partners in Power, is not pretty. But then, it was in June 2005 that the US State Department declassified the transcripts of tapes recording the murmurs of then US President Richard Nixon and his National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger — the bulk of which forms the contents of Mr Dallek’s book. So to suddenly get cross at Mr Kissinger’s description of Indians as “bastards” and his boss’s portrayal of Indira Gandhi as a “bitch” should shock us as much as Winston Churchill’s opinions on Indians and their ability to rule their own country.
But the new thing that Mr Dallek has dredged out is Washington secretly goading China to “menace” India during the India-Pakistan war in 1971 so that New Delhi is forced to send troops to the India-China border. This again is a no-brainer, considering that Nixon was desperate to reach out to China and see that nothing scuttled the much planned ‘ping-pong diplomacy’ with Mao Zedong’s Beijing the next year. With Pakistan forming Beijing’s sixth finger in the US-China handshake, Nixon was against the formation of Bangladesh.
That Mr Kissinger stated that Indians are “insufferably arrogant” should tickle our senses. As Machiavelli had said, it’s sometimes better to be an adversary who is feared, than loved. But all that was a long time ago and at least the US is brave enough to open its time capsules. As for what our leaders had to say about anyone or anything, we will just have to keep on guessing, won’t we?