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Kissinger referred to Indians as bastards

Last updated on: June 30, 2005 11:44 IST

Former US president Richard Nixon and his secretary of state Henry Kissinger did not have a good opinion of Indians in general, and of then prime minister Indira Gandhi in particular – and that is putting it mildly,

Kissinger referred to Gandhi as a 'bitch', and to Indians as 'bastards' in course of private conversations shortly after her visit to the US, just ahead of the 1971 Indo-Pak crisis.

According to transcripts of White House tapes and declassified documents made available as part of the State Department's Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS) series, Nixon and Kissinger met in the Oval Office of the White House on the morning of November 5, 1971, to discuss the former's conversation with Gandhi the previous day.

The two discussed the India's possible motives and plans with regard to the crisis in what was then East Pakistan.
Kissinger felt Nixon had achieved his objective, during his interaction with Gandhi. 'While she was a bitch, we got what we wanted too. . . . She will not be able to go home and say that the United States didn't give her a warm reception and therefore in despair she's got to go to war.'

Kissinger's opinion was that Gandhi had been thwarted in her objective: 'She would rather have had you give her a cool reception so that she could say that she was really put upon.'

'We really slobbered over the old witch,' Nixon says, on tape.

Kissinger felt that on matters of substance, nothing of importance had been conceded. 'You slobbered over her in things that did not matter, but in things that did matter, you didn't give her an inch,' he said.

Nixon and Kissinger agreed that during the next meeting with Gandhi, the approach to take was to be 'a shade cooler' and allow her to do more to carry the conversation than had been the case in the first meeting.

Nixon and Gandhi met in the Oval Office at 11:20 am November 5; also present were Kissinger and P N Haksar, then principal secretary to the prime minister.

Louis J. Smith, editor of the new volume of documentation for the FRUS series, notes that Nixon opened the conversation by discussing the objectives of his planned trip to China. 'Thereafter the conversation, which lasted an hour, became a diplomatic tour d'horizon, touching on many of the trouble spots of the world, but with scant reference to South Asia,' the note says.

Gandhi did not respond to Nixon's proposal of the previous day, to consider a withdrawal of Indian forces from the Pakistan border.

Read full transcripts

Suman Guha Mozumder in New York