THE INDO-SOVIET TREATY OF FRIENDSHIP

The shield that India acquired was the Indo-Soviet Treaty of Friendship concluded in Delhi on August 9, 1971. The treaty, which many Americans and Europeans tended to see as a virtual abandonment of India’s policy of nonalignment, had originally been proposed by Moscow and discussed by the two countries in considerable detail in 1969. That was the year when Soviet leadership was beginning to shed some of its suspicions about Indira’s ideological moorings originally fostered by her swift move to devalue Indian currency in 1966 under seeming World Bank pressure and by the warm welcome that President Johnson had accorded Mrs. Gandhi during her visit to Washington soon after she became Prime Minister. Not only had Brezhnev and Kosygin seen indications of India’s moving closer to the United States under Indira’s leadership, but Indira in her turn had her own reasons to be wary of Soviet intentions. It was about that time Moscow endeavoured to adopt a nonaligned posture in the affairs of the subcontinent and started for the first time supplying arms to Pakistan in the hope of gaining certain political leverage with its military rulers. The quantities of arms given to Pakistan were limited, but they were enough to distress India. Also, during a visit to New Delhi in the beginning of 1968, Kosygin offered Indira advice about affairs in Kashmir and management of various Soviet-collaboration industrial projects that to Indira’s sensitive ears sounded not like friendly counsel but unwarranted interference. By the middle of 1969, however, both sides had overcome much of their suspicion and realized the fruitlessness of drifting apart. Indira’s confrontation with the Congress Party Old Guard and her close association with the Communist Party of India, the Moscow-affiliated section of Indian Communists, in her temporary tacit coalition government, brightened her image in Brezhnev’s eyes. Additionally, Moscow by then had found that its decision to supply arms to Pakistan was yielding no noticeable dividends and, much to India’s satisfaction, had resolved not to make any fresh commitments.

The suggestion that India and the Soviet Union should sign a friendship treaty was, however, greeted by many Indian leaders with hesitation and a marked lack of enthusiasm in 1969. Indira’s advisers were divided among themselves over its political implications. The treaty, some argued, would bind India too closely with the Soviet Union for it to function with complete independence—and would needlessly antagonize its Western friends. If the bear could hug, it could also bite, they pointed out. Others held that fears about impairment of India’s independence and nonalignment were exaggerated and that India had gathered sufficient self-confidence and political stability to be able to join a partnership even with a superior power without limiting its freedom of action. This group among her advisers argued that any misunderstandings the treaty might cause in India’s relations with Western powers would be temporary and outweighed by the enormous political, psychological, and even military gains that the arrangement would offer.

Durga Prashad Dhar, a progressive Kashmiri leader then newly appointed Ambassador to Moscow, suggested a compromise. India, he said, might discuss and even finalize the treaty, but it should be concluded formally only at some future time that both parties might consider opportune. The Prime Minister favoured this approach and, when Moscow signaled its willingness to accept such an arrangement, ordered the discussions to begin. She, however, directed Dhar and others entrusted with the negotiations to bear in mind two points: The treaty, she told them, should contain nothing that might make India look like “a client state of the Soviet Union.” Also, the phrasing of the document should not draw attention unduly to the clause relating to mutual collaboration in the event of a threat to a signatory’s security.

By the beginning of 1970 the draft of the treaty had been finalized. Dhar and others had made it clear that a friendship treaty between India and the Soviet Union would be meaningless if the Russians had any intention of resuming their supply of arms to Pakistan.  The Indian representatives had also balked at the excessive bluntness in the language of the early draft stating each country’s responsibility to come to the military assistance of the other; the language originally favoured by Moscow virtually made it imperative for each party to offer military support to the other in the event of a war. Indira and her colleagues were anxious to keep the commitment somewhat hazy for fear of the friendship treaty’s looking like a mutual defence pact, and Clause 9 of the final draft, which provided for mutual consultations in the event of either party’s being subjected to an attack, or a threat of one, was largely the result of Indian reluctance to enter into an explicit defense commitment.

The decision to quickly dust off the treaty and formally sign it was taken by India only in the beginning of August. By then the number of refugees who had crossed into West Bengal had already risen to over 6 million. The conscience of the world community had remained distressingly unmoved by this tragic uprooting of humanity. The nations and their governments, it was felt in India, were shirking their duty by hiding behind a clause in the U.N. Charter forbidding interference in the “internal affairs” of a member country. Surely, Indira told numerous diplomats, newsmen, and various audiences, those who had drafted the Charter could not have imagined or anticipated the scale on which genocide was being committed in a part of Pakistan. By regarding the military crimes in East Pakistan as a domestic problem of Yahya Khan’s government, the world, she said, was observing the letter of the Charter provision and ignoring the real spirit of the total document. In any case, with millions of Pakistanis crossing into a neighbouring country in an endless stream, the situation she stressed repeatedly had become an international problem. World inaction could not be justified. But her pleas elicited little positive response from abroad. As the weeks passed, India’s grievance over other nation’s indifference rapidly turned into an obsessive sense of isolation. Why was it that no one did anything effective to lessen the enormous burden India was carrying alone? Many in India asked in despair and puzzlement. Legislators as well as newspaper writers wondered why it was that neither of the two superpowers, which regarded themselves as the guardians of world peace, nor various European nations claiming to live by superior political and moral values, nor even any of the Arab countries, which had a refugee problem of their own and whose cause India had steadfastly espoused, had come forward to roundly condemn Pakistan and ask Yahya Khan to desist from mass terror. When Indira remarked that words of praise for India irritated her and noted that Pakistan, instead of being rebuked, was still receiving material help, she was not merely expressing her own very deep-seated exasperation but also a national feeling of being without friends.

Something dramatic was needed to change that mood of frustration and helplessness. It came when Andrei Gromyko arrived suddenly in New Delhi on August 7. Dhar, who had by then left the Moscow post to be a special adviser to the Prime Minister at Indira’s bidding, had hurriedly persuaded the Soviet Government to sign the treaty at that moment. In the earlier stages of the East Pakistan conflict Moscow’s appreciation of the problem had been remarkably like that of the Nixon Administration in Washington. Before his arrest Sheikh had been in touch with Soviet and American diplomats and with what he regarded as consummate skill in playing one power against the other had made all kinds of promises to both in the event of his coming to power. That combined with some double-talk by Yahya Khan had encouraged Moscow to hope that the Soviet Union would be able to persuade both sides to share authority, thus earning good will all around. When the massacre that followed Sheikh Mujib’s arrest at the beginning of March, however, revealed the naiveté of the Soviet assessment. Kosygin wrote Yahya Khan a personal letter protesting the bloodthirstiness of his troops. The Soviet leaders were disturbed, moreover, by the unreserved support that Peking had offered the Pakistan Government. When, therefore, Dhar suggested that the treaty be concluded, they responded with alacrity. (Few reports could be farther off the mark than the one in the New York Times four days after the signing of the treaty, suggesting on the authority of a secret CIA informant in the Indian Government that Indira had extracted the Soviet signatures as the price for deferring formal recognition of Bangladesh. At stake on both sides was much more than the recognition issue.)

The move to resurrect the document and sign it publicly was one of the best-kept secrets in the Indian capital. Besides Indira, not half a dozen persons knew about the last-minute exchanges with Moscow. The Indian Cabinet was informed of the Prime Minister’s decision to enter a treaty arrangement with Moscow just half an hour before the accord was due to be signed by Foreign Minister Gromyko and Swaran Singh. The announcement about the conclusion of the Indo-Soviet Friendship Treaty had the expected impact on the morale of the Indian public. A few brief expressions of skepticism apart, people received it exuberantly. In their view, it meant that in the affairs of the subcontinent the Soviet Union at least was no longer sitting on the fence. Through the treaty, the Russians promised India support in the war with Pakistan that by then seemed almost certain to come. The treaty also issued to the United States and China an implicit warning that they would intervene in the conflict on Pakistan’s side only at the risk of elevating it into something bigger than a limited war between two relatively backward countries. Most Indians were grateful for this assurance and praised Indira for her adroitness in securing for them.

By courtesy of :

INDIRA BY KRISHAN BHATIA, PRAEGER PUBLISHERS INC., NEW YORK, WASHINGTON, 1974

 

 

 

 

 

 

PAKISTAN AND THE BANGLADESH WAR

The Indian Perspective

Tremendous though it was at the time, Indira’s power did not attain its peak with the unexpected and overwhelming electoral victory she won for her party in the beginning of 1971. In the following twelve months, she was to face a challenge much bigger than the one the Congress party “Old Guard” had posed, and her remarkable success in tackling it was to impress the world and turn the substantial but routine political support of her own people into what was for many months real, if sometimes frenzied, adulation. The threat to India’s security came from its neighbour and old adversary, Pakistan, but because of the way the situation developed in the subcontinent the United States and the Soviet Union, particularly the former, also got deeply involved, politically and diplomatically, in the conflict.

About the time Indira and her supporters in India were jubilantly watching the announcement of the parliamentary election results, Yahya Khan, Pakistan’s military dictator, and other leaders in that country were confronted with an unnerving situation that threatened to split their country governmentally as drastically as it was split geographically. Yahya Khan had come to power in Islamabad in March 1969, following a coup against his predecessor Ayub Khan. Yahya Khan had promised to hold elections and restore normal political institutions—some, including free elections and an uncontrolled press, abolished as far back as 1958. The general elections held in fulfillment of that promise gave the majority in the Pakistan National Assembly to the Awami League, the dominant party in the country’s distant eastern wing, 1,000 miles away across the intervening territory belonging to India. This party, led by Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, was committed to securing maximum autonomy for East Pakistan. Not surprisingly, the prospects of a national government headed by Sheikh Mujib and autonomy for East Pakistan deeply agitated the ruling groups in West Pakistan, which had until then enjoyed power and economic benefits almost exclusively.

Plainly, Yahya and those who supported the junta had not visualized such a development. (While visiting Islamabad, Henry Kissinger, was asked by a half-drunk Yahya Khan at a banquet, “Do you think I am a dictator?” Reportedly, the U.S. national security adviser quipped, “Mr. President, for a dictator you run a lousy general election.”) Efforts at a compromise between the Awami League and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto who had emerged as the principal leader of the western wing, failed. Yahya then sent several divisions of Punjabi troops to Dacca, the capital city of East Pakistan. There ensued a barbaric attempt to put down the largely Bengali, protesting citizenry, Hindu and Muslim alike. As all those who understood the Bengali mind, but as Yahya Khan apparently did not, the brutal use of force by their countrymen, instead of overawing the East Pakistanis, stiffened East Pakistan’s resolve to end the western wing’s dominance.

Mujib and some other Bengali leaders were arrested. Many others eluded Yahya Khan’s police, however, and went underground in East Pakistan or across the border in India. And as a ragged but fiercely determined guerrilla force came into being, the Awami League’s ultimate objective changed from autonomy within Pakistan to complete independence for the 75 million people in a country that now tentatively adopted for itself the name of Bangladesh.

Mrs. Gandhi vehemently denies the Pakistani charge that the Bengali uprising drew its inspiration from and what was later sustained by India. “India had no part in the internal development of Pakistan—West or East,” she says. The sympathy of the Indian Government however, as well as of the public undoubtedly was with Sheikh Mujib. Pakistan’s Western wing leaders had trod on Indian toes so frequently since the partition of the subcontinent that to see them discomfited and to consider the possibility of Pakistan’s breakup as a nation caused widespread satisfaction in India. Furthermore, at a later stage of the liberation movement, the Mukti Bahini, or Freedom Fighters, received considerable help from India in training and equipment. But in March 1971, when the conflict began, India was distinctly not involved in what Indira described as the “battle that Pakistan was waging against its own citizens.” Those close to Indira testify that there was no link—direct or otherwise—at that time between Indira or any of her authorized representatives and Sheikh Mujib—if for no other reason than she was too deeply engrossed in her own political survival to mastermind a revolt in a neighbouring country. She was then still fighting her political opponents at home with grim earnestness, and so complete was her involvement in that battle that she deferred attention to all other matters, however pressing. While the political drama in Dacca was moving to its bloody second act, Indira was engaged in the hectic election campaign during which she travelled over 40,000 miles. On many days, she was at places deep in the interior of the country where news of what was happening in East Pakistan often did not even reach her.

The Pakistani Army’s vicious crackdown in Dacca began as Indira, after celebrating her victory in the elections, was getting her new government in Delhi on the rails. Most of the Western newsmen who congregated in Dacca to watch Pakistan’s constitutional tussle work itself out were forcibly prevented from witnessing the atrocities that the West Pakistani troops were ordered to commit in the hope of terrorizing the Bengali populace into submission. But before the Military Governor of East Pakistan summarily debarred the press—no exception was made even in the case of correspondents from traditionally pro-Pakistani conservative papers in Britain and the United States—many visiting newsmen had seen enough of what was beginning to occur or evidence of the earliest atrocities to write dispatches that made their readers’ stomach turn. In the organized burning of villages, destruction of crops, mass shooting of innocent people (whose bodies were left to be devoured by vultures), and the rape of tens of thousands of Bengali women, many Western reporters saw terror equaling, perhaps surpassing, that which the Jews had suffered in Hitler’s Germany.

It was inevitable that the Indians would be much more deeply affected by the gory developments in and around Dacca than were people living continents away. Dispatches from British and American newspapers were reproduced in the Indian press, but Indians had even more graphic and moving accounts of what was happening from those East Pakistanis who began crossing into India by the thousands before the Pakistani Army’s “campaign” was a month old. Despite the barrier that partition had erected between them, Indian and Pakistani Bengalis had maintained strong cultural and emotional ties over the years. The Hindus in East Pakistan constituted a defenseless minority and were the special target of the Pakistani Army’s venom. Most of those who now fled to India were, therefore, Hindus. Many Hindus believed that the Pakistani Army repression was designed primarily to rid East Pakistan completely of its non-Muslim population, and the anger aroused was widespread. In Parliament and the press there were some who from the start seriously advocated war with Pakistan to stop the terror and influx of refugees. Indira, deeply affected by the tragedy, later wrote in Foreign Affairs:

We would normally have welcomed the attainment of freedom by any victim of colonial oppression but usually it would have little direct impact on us. Bangladesh, however, was a part of our subcontinent. How could we ignore a conflict which took place on our very border and overflowed into our own territory?

It was only a short time before the conflict between the two wings of Pakistan spread into India. Since the partition of the two countries in 1947, Pakistan had driven out several million of its Hindu citizens, who had crossed into India in periodic waves. Thus, East Pakistani Hindus seeking refuge in the Indian state of Bengal were by no means an uncommon phenomenon. They arrived, destitute and in a state of shock following sudden, inexplicable outbursts of religious hatred or equally inexplicable acts of official highhandedness in their homeland. In the decade following independence, nearly 4 million Hindus from East Pakistan had been reluctantly absorbed into India—their expulsion viewed as an unfortunate extension of the communal frenzy that had seized people in both countries at the time of partition. But over the years the pace had slowed almost to a trickle and by now, twenty-fours after independence, official as well as public attitudes towards having to offer them permanent refuge had changed. In March 1971 over 10 million Hindus were still in East Pakistan. They were citizens of Pakistan. India considered the lengthy chapter in the subcontinent’s history devoted to exchange of persons finally closed. Not that Indians would shut the door in the face of the terror-stricken. Poor in the world’s terms as their country was, they would look after these new refugees from Pakistan as best as they could—but it had to be understood that the refugees’ stay must be short. They were East Pakistanis and in time they must return home.

Indira Gandhi wondered if Pakistan was trying to solve one of its problems by driving out the 10 million people whose presence as citizens it found “inconvenient.” As April gave way to May and June, another aspect of the steadily rising influx that worried her was its possible impact on the area in India into which refugees were streaming. West Bengal bordering East Pakistan was – and still is—among the most thickly populated and politically restive parts of India. The state had a history of administrative instability, and sizable sections of its volatile people had earlier tried to seek power through Maoist attempts at organized violence. The arrival of many refugees was liable to strain the area’s limited economic resources and the ensuing frustration might well encourage further violence. From the very start, therefore, Indira was quite clear in her mind that irrespective of the fact that many of them were Hindus, the East Pakistani refugees must return home. And in the beginning of October 1971, by which time a staggering 9 million refugees had entered India, she told BBC, “We have no intention of absorbing these people here—no matter what. I am absolutely determined about it.”

 

When, during that terrible summer and early autumn, Yahya Khan protested that what his army was doing in East Pakistan was the country’s internal matter and many abroad appeared to agree with him, Indira, through Indian and international news media, reacted strongly. The problem in East Pakistan was not of India’s making: “We have never interfered in any way in the politics of Pakistan,” she said. “But Pakistan can no longer pretend that this is its internal problem.” With millions of helpless Pakistani citizens entering India, “it has become an internal problem for us and it has become a major problem of humanity, a question of conscience and of the protection of people’s lives and rights,” she asserted. India’s Foreign Minister Swaran Singh, whom she dispatched that summer to London, Washington, Moscow, and other major capitals to explain the implications of the refugee influx, told various heads of governments that what India was experiencing was a “civilian invasion.” As the verbal battle mounted, Yahya Khan, equally angry but less decorous, told a correspondent of Le Figaro in August that Indira “is neither a woman nor a head of state by wanting to be both at once.” Should he come face to face with her, he would say to her, “Shut up woman; leave me alone and let refugees come back,” he declared.

Not many even among Yahya Khan’s friends abroad seriously believed that India had any interest in deliberately holding back Pakistani refugees from returning home, as Yahya Khan was now claiming. For one thing, the overwhelming nature of the strain on India’s resources was obvious. Several special taxes, including a substantial surcharge on the postal rates, were levied temporarily to raise additional revenue burdening an already weak economy. India was then spending $5 to $6 million daily to feed the refugees and provide them with some improvised shelter and basic medical care (an outbreak of cholera in epidemic form was narrowly averted). When torrential rains hit West Bengal, the refugee camps turned into vast marshy lakes. The more fortunate among the residents were those who had had the initiative to establish squatting rights in large concrete sewer pipes awaiting installation. U.N. observers, volunteers of numerous relief organizations, visiting U.S. senators and congressman, British M.P.s, and scores of reporters from all over the world wrote or spoke of the miserable conditions in which the refugees had to live and the sacrifice that India was required to make to keep them there at all and alive, even if in misery. Despite these reports there were those who sometimes inquired in apparent innocence why India did not “let the refugees return home” as Yahya Khan had suggested. Snappishly, Indira pointed out the absurdity of the return-home “invitation.” How could any refugees be persuaded to go back when tens of thousands more of their countrymen were arriving every day with new horror stories to tell and with evidence in their blank eyes and scarred bodies of the continuance of the terror from which they had fled?

Even those who expressed admiration for India for the way it offered succor to the terror-stricken did not always please Indira. After a while, in fact, such expression of praise became, she said, “a bit of an irritant.” India’s efforts, she believed, were being dismissed with flattering words. Meanwhile Pakistan was continuing to get material help from the United States and China. The world, she often said with exasperation, even bitterness, as the situation steadily worsened, was not doing its moral duty towards the people of Bangladesh. Instead of condemning Pakistan for the “callous, inhuman, and intemperate” butchery that its military apparatus had organized, most countries were merely appeasing their consciences or their isolated groups of outraged citizens by praising India or offering some food, clothing, and medicines for the refugees.

There could be “only one solution,” she told an Italian journalist:

Conditions must be created in East Pakistan, Bangladesh as it is called, in which there is not military terror but normal democratic functioning of the people’s will, so that the refugees are enabled to return to their homes and their safety is guaranteed. The rulers of Pakistan must be made to see that there is no other way. It is the duty of every country which has any influence with Pakistan to impress the truth upon them.

But Indira’s hope that the world community would exert the required pressure on Pakistan’s military junta was, and all along had been, slender. Early in the conflict in East Pakistan, she had come to feel reasonably certain that the Western wing’s repressive hand would not be withdrawn until too late, and that East Pakistanis, particularly Hindus would continue to flee from terror in massive numbers while the world held back from action to end the tragic situation. Armed conflict with Pakistan, she and her advisers had begun to reason, might become unavoidable if her resolve to send back the refugees was to be fulfilled.

As early as the beginning of April 1971, soon after she had formed her new Cabinet, Indira had issued formal directions to India’s army chief, General S.H.F.J. Manekshaw, to prepare for the eventuality of a war. As he told an interviewer, Manekshaw (who had since been promoted to be India’s first field marshal) was impressed by the “clarity of the briefing issued to me by my political command.” The influx of the refugees he was told, was expected to continue and was creating economic, social, and psychological burdens that India could bear for no more than ten months to a year. If the government’s efforts to find a peaceful solution of the problem failed during that period, the armed forces would be ordered to achieve “the specific objective of opening the door” for the refugees to return home. While preparing for the task, he must keep in view the fact the international situation and the political pressures that India would likely to invite upon itself in the event of a war with Pakistan would permit the army only “three to four weeks” to achieve the objective. Besides allowing herself time to search for a peaceful solution, Indira’s ten-month deadline for the refugees’ return presumably considered the time Manekshaw must need to prepare the army for the conflict and the fact that from June until September the monsoon would make any swift military operation impossible.

While they were helping her make the necessary preparations for a war, the Prime Minister’s advisers also warned her against getting the country involved in battle at a time and place of Pakistan’s choosing. Pakistan could be expected to launch an attack from its Western wing, where its military power was considerable, and to occupy a certain amount of Indian territory before responding to the almost certain Security Council for cease-fire. If that happened, India would find itself in an embarrassing predicament. It would have to pull back its troops from East Pakistan to have its own territory in the western area surrendered by Yahya Khan’s troops. Also, the Bangladesh problem would then be internationalized, which would give Islamabad all the time it would need to put down the Bengali uprising. The Political Affairs Committee of the Cabinet, over which Indira presided, therefore considered that India must be strong enough to deliver a quick, effective blow in the East while defending its borders in the West. It must also acquire a shield against big-power pressure for halting the conflict before the return of the refugees to their homeland was secured.

BY COURTESY: INDIRA BY KRISHAN BHATIA, PRAEGER PUBLISHERS INC., NEW YORK, WASHINGTON, 1974

 

 

 

USA AND INDIRA

The Indian Perspective

In sharp contrast to her success with Moscow, Indira’s attempt to persuade Nixon to exert pressure on Yahya Khan to stop the killing and come to terms with Mujib was a singular failure. Yet in the protracted confrontation between them over the issue, Nixon, not Indira, appeared the real loser. In the view of much of the world—and, indeed, of many Americans—the Nixon Administration seemed to be supporting Pakistan and courting Peking at the expense of the freedom seeking people of Bangladesh.

Neither in their assessment of the real nature of the problem in East Pakistan nor over the correct way to resolve it did the U.S. President and Indian Prime Minister see eye to eye. From the time when the military crackdown began in East Pakistan until the end of the war that established the new state of Bangladesh, the two leaders held a lengthy dialogue through public pronouncements as well as private communication. The whole time, however, they seemed to be talking at cross-purposes. The stubbornness with which Nixon refused to take what Indira regarded as effective action in Pakistan puzzled legislators and political writers in both countries. Perhaps, as some reasoned, Nixon felt morally obliged to stand by a friendly country in the time of its crisis and prevent its disintegration. Perhaps he was irked more than his predecessors in the White House had been by India’s continuing policy of nonalignment, its seeming partiality to Moscow, and often arrogant posture in world politics. However, it is reasonably certain that personality factors also counted for much in the lack of rapport between him and Indira.

Between him and Pakistan, Nixon was known to have feelings of much greater warmth towards the latter. When he visited Pakistan soon after his defeat in the 1960 election, Nixon was accorded a hero’s welcome. Pakistanis remembered his role in the conclusion of a mutual security pact in 1954 and the accompanying supply of U.S. arms that had been part of John Foster Dulles’s policy of containing Communism. That Nixon was no longer in the U.S. Government had seemed scarcely to matter to his Pakistani hosts. In the spring of 1967 he had a similarly heartwarming reception when he returned as a private citizen, to the subcontinent. By the summer of 1969, when, as U.S. President, he passed through the region, an element of slight chill had entered the two countries’ relationship owing to Pakistan’s acceptance of arms from Moscow. Yahya Khan, who had by then displaced Ayub Khan as the country’s military dictator, was also personally unknown to Nixon. However, during the single day that the American visitor spent in Lahore—he had expressed his inability to go up to Pakistan’s capital in Islamabad—the two reportedly developed a strong sense of personal affinity. The bond grew in strength and warmth in 1971 when Yahya Khan’s government agreed to provide the line of communication with Peking as the Nixon Administration sought to re-establish relations with the Communist Chinese Government and enabled Henry Kissinger to take off from a Pakistani military airport on his historic secret mission to China’s capital. Earlier that year, when heads of governments from all over the world assembled in New York to celebrate the twenty-fifth anniversary of the founding of the United Nations, Yahya Khan was among those who readily responded to Nixon’s invitation to travel to Washington for dinner in the White House. At the dinner, other guests noticed that when a noticeable tipsy Yahya Khan indulged in some buffoonery, Nixon, his own normally puritanical ways notwithstanding, looked with amused indulgence.

Nixon’s experience with India has been totally different. During his 1961 visit to the subcontinent he was almost ignored in New Delhi. The only official function in his honour was lunch by the then Finance Minister Morarji Desai, who served him an indifferently cooked vegetarian meal and some blunt, biting comments about the United States and its alliance with Pakistan. During his 1967 global tour his stop in New Delhi brought him a meeting with Indira, who had just been re-elected Prime Minister. But the meeting held at her house was brief, and Indira had little to say to him. She could, in fact, scarcely conceal her boredom with her visitor. After about twenty minutes or so of desultory chat, she inquired of the Indian Foreign Office official escorting Nixon how much longer the interview would last. The question was asked in Hindi, but its tone indicated its purport. In 1970 Indira, also visiting New York for the U.N. celebrations declined Nixon’s invitation to dinner without offering any plausible reason for her inability to accept.

Perhaps inevitably, therefore, as 1971 progressed and the Bangladesh grew in dimension, the dialogue between Nixon and Indira acquired an increasingly shrill, abrasive character. Both looked at the same happenings. But what each saw was quite different from what appeared important to the other. Both claimed and doubtless believed that they were striving to keep peace on the subcontinent and to minimize human suffering. Both felt and behaved self-righteously about the way they were tackling the problem. As the gulf between them widened steadily with every passing month, their mutual dislike and distrust was evident to all.

At the outset Nixon acted with noticeable promptitude in expressing his disapproval of Yahya Khan’s policy of repression. In the beginning of April, the Administration stopped issuing and renewing licenses for military equipment for Pakistan and suspended the processing of a special $80 million arms sale to Pakistan to which the United States had committed itself the previous autumn over strong Indian protests. Economic aid was also stopped. On May 28, when the suspension of U.S.  arms supplies appeared to have little impact on the Pakistan Government, Nixon wrote to Yahya Khan urging him to end “civil strife and restore peaceful conditions in East Pakistan.” He also expressed his “deep concern” over the possibility that events might lead to “international conflict” in the subcontinent. To avert such an occurrence, he suggested that Yahya Khan create “conditions in East Pakistan conducive to the return of refugees from Indian territory as quickly as possible.”

As the American President analyzed it and explained later in his State-of-the-World Message to the U.S. Congress, the Bangladesh problem had three aspects—the humanitarian, the political, and the threat of war it posed in the subcontinent. Of these, he regarded the humanitarian problem involving the care of refugees who had fled to India as “monumental and immediate.” A political settlement between the Yahya Khan regime and Sheikh Mujib’s followers, he felt, would take time. His Administration, Nixon claimed in the message, had obtained assurances from Yahya Khan that Sheikh Mujib would not be executed and that the military governor of East Pakistan would be replaced by a civilian. He said that:

In August, we established contact with Bengali representatives in Calcutta. By early November, president Yahya told us he was prepared to begin negotiations with any representative of this group not charged with high crimes in Pakistan.

Indira showed no interest in the U.S. efforts. She regarded them as totally inadequate and liable to strengthen Yahya’s brutal hold on East Pakistan. Nixon’s action in suspending military and economic aid to Pakistan seemed to her no expression of a sense of moral outrage at the inhuman way Yahya Khan was “pacifying” East Pakistan but merely the compulsion to respond to pressures from the U.S. Congress, many of whose prominent members were shocked at what was happening. Indira was also irritated by the fact that a few days after William Rogers, then Secretary of State, had solemnly assured her Foreign Minister that no U.S. arms were being supplied to Yahya Khan, the New York Times disclosed that several million dollars’ worth of spare parts, some meant for lethal military equipment, were on their way to Pakistan. She found Nixon’s priorities concerning the Bangladesh problem topsy-turvy. By assigning top priority to refugee, relief, the Administration was merely shifting attention away from the basic malady, she contended. Unless there was a satisfactory political settlement in East Pakistan the flow of refugees into India would not and could not stop—and none of the millions who had already entered India could be induced to return home. In any case it was preposterous, as she saw it, for the U.S. Government to advise Yahya Khan, as it apparently did, to grant amnesty for the refugees, instead of asking him to atone for his army’s crimes against them.

Indira was also unimpressed by Nixon’s claim that as part of his quiet diplomacy U.S. officials had established contact with Bengali leaders in Calcutta and that he was hopeful of useful negotiations beginning soon between Yahya khan and Mujib’s men. From India’s own intelligence sources, she learned that the individuals contacted were of low political status and could neither speak on behalf of their imprisoned leader nor even influence the course of the Bangladesh freedom movement. By insisting on talking only to those Bengali leaders who were not accused of “crimes,” Yahya had debarred from such parleys almost all Bengali leaders of any political consequence. Nixon was seen to be knowingly exaggerating Yahya Khan’s willingness to negotiate with East Pakistani leaders or respond to U.S. initiatives. Despite his close friendship with the Pakistani dictator, the U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan, Joseph Farland had been refused permission to meet Mujib in jail. While the White House publicly proclaimed that the U.S. Embassy had been allowed to establish contact with Mujib, all that Farland had in fact been permitted was to talk to Mujib’s lawyer. Even that privilege was rendered useless by the lawyer’s refusal to meet any U.S. Embassy official. But Nixon quietly disregarded the lawyer’s curt no and continued to give the impression that a major political break-through had been secured—one that India, he implied, lamentably chose to ignore. Nixon’s own Ambassador in India, Kenneth Keating who knew about the lawyer’s refusal was puzzled by the White House claim and a cable to the State Department protested the seeming distortion of facts.

What distressed Indira and many others in the country more than anything else was Nixon’s attempt to equate India with Pakistan. It was Pakistan’s military rulers who were responsible for tragedy and turmoil in the subcontinent. India was the indirect victim of their tyrannical actions. Why should the U.S. Government treat India as one of the culprits in the situation and deliver it periodic sermons on the importance of keeping peace? It was asked. About the same time Nixon wrote to Yahya, he sent a personal letter to Indira that “the problems involved in this [Bangladesh] situation can and should be solved peacefully.” He said he was deeply concerned that the situation not develop into a war between India and Pakistan “either because of the refugee flow or through actions which might escalate the insurgency which may be developing in East Pakistan.” Rogers was less circumspect in warning India when he met the Indian Ambassador in Washington on August 11. The United States, he bluntly told the envoy, would stop all economic aid to India should India precipitate a war with Pakistan. To Indians such warnings appeared totally unmerited and unjust and a clear indication of the Nixon Administration’s strong bias in favour of Pakistan and its President.

Irritations, exasperation and suspicions apart, Indira’s attitude remained determined by one basic consideration. The East Pakistani refugees must go back. She pressed for Mujib’s release, because she was convinced only he could negotiate a settlement acceptable to Bangladesh and create the climate of peace and confidence essential for the refugees return. She objected to the timetable for the restoration of civilian rule in East Pakistan that Nixon proposed, because it was so slow-moving that it would take years before any solution to the refugee problem could be found. With passage of time the refugees’ inclination to return to East Pakistan would subside, for they would have begun to grow social, cultural, and economic roots in India. Indira Gandhi told a cabinet colleague in the autumn of 1971 that “if the refugees do not go back soon they will never go.”

Having to feed, clothe, and house 9 to 10 million Pakistanis for an indefinite period was a burden heavier than that of going to war to secure their return. India was dedicated to peace, but it was not committed to preserving peace at all costs. Economic and political stability was more precious than peace, and that is precisely what Indira told Nixon when she met him in Washington in the beginning of November in a final effort to persuade him to use his influence with his friend in Pakistan for a quick and effective solution of the East Pakistan problem.

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In Washington 1971

The meeting got off to an inauspicious start. At the customary reception on the White House lawn, Nixon went out of his way to refer to a news report that morning about monsoon floods in the State of Bihar and to offer Prime Minister Gandhi his sympathy over the hardship that must have caused a portion of her countrymen. However, he pointedly omitted any mention of the Pakistani refugees who had endured much deeper suffering for a considerably longer period than the flood victims in Bihar. To Indira, it seemed a calculated political affront combined with a measure of personal callousness to mention a relatively minor and routine calamity—floods in certain parts of India are an annual occurrence—while ignoring the bigger tragedy. Even though the reception was strictly a protocol function, Indira was not about to let her host get away with it. In a speech quickly redrafted minutes before the ceremony, she pointedly admonished Nixon for referring to a natural disaster while ignoring a “man made tragedy of vast proportions.” She had come to Washington, she told him, “in search of some wise impulse, which, as history tells us, has sometimes worked to save humanity from despair.”

 At other public functions in her honour, too, pleasantries and compliments hid an occasional political barb. The private talks, as the Columbia Broadcasting System reported at the end of her visit, “had many tense moments.” Contrary to the impressions given to newsmen at White House briefings, the Indian Prime Minister never gave Nixon an assurance that India would not resort to war if peaceful efforts failed to give the country relief from the refugee problem. If anything, she told the U.S. President that, should a war start, it would not be a limited one, by which she meant hostilities would not be confined to the eastern wing of Pakistan or merely to the use of ground forces. She refused to accept the U.S. plea for withdrawal of forces from India’s borders with Pakistan. That Pakistan had accepted the suggestion did not impress her. Having been attacked thrice by Pakistan since independence, India, she pointed out, had no faith in Islamabad’s promises or in any assurance that its friends might offer on its behalf. India was not interested in Pakistan’s breakup, but it was also not committed to the preservation of Pakistan’s territorial integrity, she said. Nixon was equally firm in expressing his disagreement with her views. He was not convinced that Mujib alone could negotiate a political settlement with Yahya Khan. Much useful ground, he argued, could be conveyed by any of his nominees. He reportedly urged her to order Indian troops to pull back from the border and to use her influence with the Bengali guerillas forces to end their insurgency. On her return home, she was satisfied with her reception in Washington and that she had had a sympathetic hearing. But much of that was just polite talk. Both Indians and Americans who had followed the course of her talks had little doubt about the failure of her mission.

In London, Bonn, and Paris, cities she visited as part of the same mission that had taken her to Washington, Indira received much greater sympathy and understanding. But in these capitals, too, she sensed little desire to exert any pressure on Yahya Khan. She returned home convinced that a major conflict with Pakistan was unavoidable and that should that war come the Nixon Administration would try its utmost to prevent India from attaining its objective. Those who met her at that juncture noticed little evidence of trepidation or sense of despair on her part. Some recall even an air of buoyancy around her, as if she had been rid of the enormous burden of making a difficult decision. Militarily, the situation had changed in India’s favour in the preceding months. Manekshaw had finalized his plans and had received all he had asked for to prepare his men for the war. The monsoon had ended and a quick and decisive action was possible. India had collected extensive intelligence about deployment of Pakistani troops and the Mukti Bahini, the Bengali freedom fighters, had attained some measure of strength, training and confidence. The West Pakistani troops, conversely, were physically fatigued by their own excesses and demoralized by the sea of venom and hatred that surrounded them. Pakistani aircraft and naval ships had to travel 3,000 miles to bring supplies and replacements from West to East Pakistan. An Indian plan for Bengali insurgency had been in operation for some months, and guerillas trained and equipped on Indian soil—Indira had made no secret of her government’s support for them—had been committing increasingly daring acts of sabotage. Harassed Pakistani soldiers would often cross the border into India chasing them or shell their hide-outs and camps, only to invite upon themselves sharp Indian reprisals. There was no better time for the inevitable trial of strength.

The question, however, remained, and the one over which Indira and her four Cabinet colleagues on the Political Affairs Committee agonized almost daily was: How and at what point should India intervene militarily in the Bangladesh situation? Manekshaw, who was usually invited to attend the committee’s meetings, was quite sanguine. He told them, “Do not worry. . . Yahya Khan will give us what we want without his knowing it . . . He would at any moment commit an obvious folly. Then we would move.”

Yahya Khan committed the expected act of foolishness on December 3, nearly three weeks after the Prime Minister’s return home following her unsuccessful diplomatic endeavour. Pakistani Air Force planes suddenly struck at Indian Air Force stations at Srinagar, Amritsar, Agra, Ambala, Pathankot, and three other points near the western border. Pakistani artillery also began heavy shelling of several strategically important points along the Indian border. Yahya khan had not only offered the justification India needed for its military intervention but had even given a warning of his action. On November 23, he had publicly announced that war with India would begin in ten days.

Though all precautions had been taken against sudden Pakistani attack—the damage to Indian Air Force stations was negligible—Indira apparently had not regarded Yahya Khan’s war timetable too seriously. On the day of the Pakistani air attack she was nearly 1,000 miles away from the capital delivering a speech in Calcutta. The Defense Minister and almost all other members of the Political Affairs Committee, the body supposed to deal with emergency situations, were either abroad or touring different parts of the country. Indira was in the midst of her speech when the news of the Pakistani air attack was conveyed to her. She wound up her address rather abruptly and returned to Delhi by then shrouded in total darkness as a precaution against further Pakistani air raids. When someone in her party expressed concern about her security and pointed out that the Pakistani Air Force might attack her aircraft, she reportedly snapped back, “Well, if it does, what is the Indian Air Force for?” At about ten o’clock that night she went on the air to announce to the country that it was at war with Pakistan and that a state of emergency had been declared. During her brief broadcast she said:

Since last March, we have borne the heaviest burden and withstood the greatest pressure in a tremendous effort to urge the world to help to bringing about a peaceful solution and preventing the annihilation of an entire people . . . But the world ignored the basic causes and concerned itself only with certain repercussions . . . Today the war in Bangladesh has become a war on India. . .. We have no other option but to put our country on a war footing.

The war, as Manekshaw had predicted, was “short and bloody—quick and decisive.” It ended in India’s victory. Pakistani soldiers fought stubbornly, almost ferociously, but the superiority of Indian strength and diverse advantages Manekshaw had over his adversary overwhelmed them. The Indian Army chief knew the terrain in East Pakistan like the palm of his hand. Before his appointment as the head of the Indian Army, Manekshaw had held the Eastern Command. There he was entrusted with the task of watching over security of the entire eastern region from West Bengal and Sikkim to Assam and the region bordering with Tibet and Burma. In that post “I had nothing to do except read maps,” he said, and he never ceased to think of what might need to be done in the event of a war between India and Pakistan. “Sometimes I used to shut my eyes and recall, even in the dark, the map of East Pakistan—its plains, rivers, and cities. The picture was vivid in my mind all the time and in full detail,” he told a visiting editor. He also knew and understood the person against whom he was pitched. Two years before India’s partition Yahya had been a major in the British Indian Army unit that Manekshaw commanded. He knew the Pakistani dictator to be “a very stupid man” who could “not control his nerves.” What was more, his study of the power structure in Pakistan convinced him that at the top “the Pakistani political and military mind was confused.” As a result, their armed forces’ faith in it was shaken. The control of the political and military leadership “was weak and its lines [of communication] were feeble,” he said.

On the Indian side, there was no evidence of confusion in thinking or inadequacy of communication between the political leaders and military commanders. Indira claims that her relations with the chiefs of the Indian Army, Air Force, and Navy were marked by complete mutual trust. She respected their judgment and advice in tactical and technical matters, and they retained confidence in her assessment of the political aspects of the situation. Manekshaw, for example, decided to avoid capturing big cities as the Indian Army moved into East Pakistan, for he felt the control of big urban areas placed an unusually heavy strain on the army’s resources; Indira promptly accepted his reasoning, even though the psychological and political advantages of capturing well-known towns and cities was tremendous. Similarly, when it was decided to deploy the air force to attack targets not only in the East, but also in the West, and that the Navy should shell the Karachi harbour; the service chiefs readily accepted her directive against “terror bombing” or hitting civilian population. In any event, the Indian forces moved forward so steadily and the war ended so quickly that there was scarcely a situation that might require extraordinary “control over nerves” or bring to the surface elements of “confusion in the political and military mind” in New Delhi.

Curiously, it was left to President Nixon to introduce into the conflict the only element of high drama. Four days after the beginning of the war he ordered part of the U.S. Seventh Fleet to sail into the Bay of Bengal. For many this was a startling development, immediately raising the specter of a wider and protracted war. Indian officials and the press angrily denounced the U.S. Government for employing gunboat techniques of a bygone era. The public was in an uproar. But Indira says the news that the U.S.S. Enterprise was heading towards Dacca caused her “amusement,” not worry. What was it that the fleet could have done? She asks. All that its dispatch demonstrated, she recalls, was how little Nixon understood the situation in the subcontinent. She did not give this assessment at the meeting of the Political Affairs Committee summoned urgently late that evening to study the development, but, as those present remember, she was cool and unfluttered. At the meeting Manekshaw said the most that the Seventh Fleet would attempt would be to establish a beachhead to evacuate some of the top Pakistani civilians. Some argued that the U.S. act was nothing but sabre-rattling on Nixon’s part. There was, however, a touch of nervousness and worry in their demeanor even as they said that. Despite the widespread indignation in the country, Indira adjourned the meeting (“we have a busy day ahead of us”) after directing that the conduct of war should remain unaffected by the impending arrival of the U.S. nuclear-armed ship. Perhaps it was an empty threat, or perhaps Washington was impressed by India’s angry response or belatedly noted the hazardous implications of its move, but the fleet was ordered to sail back long before it could come anywhere near Indian or Bangladesh waters.

Indira was not amused by some American actions. As was expected, the United States moved to ask the U.N. Security Council for an immediate cease-fire and withdrawal of troops. While urging this course of action, the U.S. chief delegate to the United Nations, George Bush, accused India, bluntly and repeatedly, of being the aggressor. He not only ignored the fact that Pakistan had taken the first major military step towards war by bombing Indian airfields but also charged that India was anxious to annex territory in the Western wing and was conspiring to bring about Pakistan’s total disintegration. As days passed and the U.S. efforts to secure withdrawal of Indian forces from East Pakistan were thwarted by the Soviet veto, Bush’s diatribe against Indira and Indian leaders acquired a sharper, more wounding tone. In Washington, in the meantime, the administration had summarily adjudged India the aggressor and stopped all economic aid. It even froze the $88 million in assistance for which commitments had already been made and formal contracts signed. Through Kissinger, Nixon also ordered all departments of the government to follow the policy of a “tilt” against India. Kissinger went to the extent of directing that “henceforth we show a certain coolness to the Indians; the Indian Ambassador is not to be treated at too high a level.” Of the Indian Prime Minister, Kissinger said at a secret White House meeting, “the lady is cold-blooded and tough.”

On December 15 Indira reacted to the administration’s anti India stance and in a letter to Nixon asked sorrowfully if he as “President of the great American people will at least let me know where precisely we have gone wrong before your representatives or spokesmen deal with us with such harshness of language.” She told him that “we are deeply hurt by the innuendos and insinuations that it was we who have precipitated the crisis and have in any way thwarted the emergence of solutions.” The letter was not merely a sentimental plea for greater sympathy. Indira also bluntly told Nixon how his administration had failed the people of Bangladesh and must share the responsibility for the tragedy. War between India and Pakistan, she said, could have been avoided “if the power, influence and authority of all the States and above all the United State, had got Sheikh Mujibur Rahman released . . . Lip service was paid to the need for a political solution, but not a single worthwhile step was taken to bring this about.”Nixon, obviously chagrined by the U.S. failure to prevent the breakup of Pakistan and embarrassed by the naiveté of his Seventh Fleet move, refused to accept Indira’s criticism of his role. In a confidential letter, he sent her on December 18, he rebuked India for having “spurned” efforts and proposals that the United States had been making to find a peaceful solution to the Pakistan problem and instead having chosen war as an instrument of policy.” His administration, he wrote, was not against India. What it opposed was the resort to military means when political resources for a solution had not been fully explored. To Indira’s remark in her letter that “there are moments in history when brooding tragedy and its dark shadows can be lightened by recalling great moments of the past,” Nixon responded by remarking curtly that “there are times when statesmanship could turn the course of history away from war.”

That Nixon was mollified scarcely worried the Indian people. Under Indira’s leadership their country had won a war that, apart from being more decisive than the three earlier military conflicts with Pakistan, had led to the breakup of an intensely hated neighbour and secured the creation of a new nation, Bangladesh. Pakistan, as an Indian columnist tritely wrote in a Delhi newspaper, had been “cut to size.” The victory washed away the humiliation the Indian people had nursed for almost a decade since the border war with China. Their adoration of Indira—no other word can be used to describe the public attitude towards her in the beginning of 1972—was heightened by the fact that she could twit a world leader of Nixon’s stature. Throughout the country, as the refugees began to go home to Bangladesh hopes were high that now at last India under Prime Minister Gandhi would be recognized as a power of consequence—a role that many Indians had yearned for in the twenty-five years since independence.

BY COURTESY: INDIRA BY KRISHAN BHATIA, PRAEGER PUBLISHERS INC., NEW YORK, WASHINGTON, 1974

Henry Kissinger

 

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 56th United States Secretary of State

  • In office: September 22, 1973 – January 20, 1977 under President: Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford

8th National Security Advisor

  • In office: January 20, 1969 – November 3, 1975 under President: Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford

Chairman of the 9/11 Commission

  • In office: November 27, 2002 – December 13, 2002 under President: George W. Bush

Henry Alfred Kissinger born on May 27, 1923 is an American diplomat and political scientist who served as the Secretary of State and National Security Adviser under the presidential administrations of Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford. Born in Germany, Kissinger is a Jewish refugee who fled the Nazi regime with his family in 1938. He became National Security Adviser in 1969 and later concurrently United States Secretary of State in 1973. For his actions negotiating a ceasefire in Vietnam, Kissinger received the 1973 Nobel Peace Prize under controversial circumstances, with two members of the committee resigning in protest. Kissinger later sought, unsuccessfully, to return the prize after the ceasefire failed. After his term, his advice has been sought by world leaders including subsequent U.S. presidents.

A proponent of Realpolitik, Kissinger played a prominent role in United States foreign policy between 1969 and 1977. During this period, he pioneered the policy of détente with the Soviet Union, orchestrated the opening of relations with the People’s Republic of China, and negotiated the Paris Peace Accords, ending American involvement in the Vietnam War. Kissinger has also been associated with such controversial policies as CIA involvement in Chile and U.S. support for Pakistan, despite the genocide during the Bangladesh War. He is the founder and chairman of Kissinger Associates, an international consulting firm. Kissinger has been a prolific author of books on diplomatic history and international relations with over one dozen books authored.

General opinion of Henry Kissinger is strongly divided. Several scholars have ranked him as the most effective U.S. Secretary of State since 1965, while some journalists, activists, and human rights lawyers have condemned him as a war criminal.

EARLY LIFE AND EDUCATION

Kissinger was born Heinz Alfred Kissinger in Fürth, Bavaria, Germany, in 1923 during the Weimar Republic, to a family of German Jews. His father, Louis Kissinger (1887–1982), was a schoolteacher. His mother, Paula (Stern) Kissinger (1901–1998), from Leutershausen, was a homemaker. Kissinger has a younger brother, Walter Kissinger. The surname Kissinger was adopted in 1817 by his great-great-grandfather Meyer Löb, after the Bavarian spa town of Bad Kissingen. As a youth, Heinz enjoyed playing soccer, and played for the youth wing of his favorite club, SpVgg Fürth, which was one of the nation’s best clubs at the time.  In 1938, fleeing Nazi persecution, his family moved to London, England, before arriving in New York on September 5.

Kissinger spent his high school years in the Washington Heights section of Upper Manhattan as part of the German Jewish immigrant community that resided there at the time. Although Kissinger assimilated quickly into American culture, he never lost his pronounced Frankish accent, due to childhood shyness that made him hesitant to speak. Following his first year at George Washington High School, he began attending school at night and worked in a shaving brush factory during the day.

Following high school, Kissinger enrolled in the City College of New York, studying accounting. He excelled academically as a part-time student, continuing to work while enrolled. His studies were interrupted in early 1943, when he was drafted into the U.S. Army.

ARMY EXPERIENCE

Kissinger underwent basic training at Camp Croft in Spartanburg, South Carolina. On June 19, 1943, while stationed in South Carolina, at the age of 20 years, he became a naturalized U.S. citizen. The army sent him to study engineering at Lafayette College, Pennsylvania, but the program was cancelled, and Kissinger was reassigned to the 84th Infantry Division. There, he made the acquaintance of Fritz Kraemer, a fellow Jewish immigrant from Germany who noted Kissinger’s fluency in German and his intellect, and arranged for him to be assigned to the military intelligence section of the division. Kissinger saw combat with the division and volunteered for hazardous intelligence duties during the Battle of the Bulge.

During the American advance into Germany, Kissinger, only a private, was put in charge of the administration of the city of Krefeld, owing to a lack of German speakers on the division’s intelligence staff. Within eight days he had established a civilian administration. Kissinger was then reassigned to the Counter Intelligence Corps, with the rank of sergeant. He was given charge of a team in Hanover assigned to tracking down Gestapo officers and other saboteurs, for which he was awarded the Bronze Star.  In June 1945, Kissinger was made commandant of the Bensheim metro CIC detachment, Bergstrasse district of Hesse, with responsibility for de-Nazification of the district. Although he possessed absolute authority and powers of arrest, Kissinger took care to avoid abuses against the local population by his command.

In 1946, Kissinger was reassigned to teach at the European Command Intelligence School at Camp King, continuing to serve in this role as a civilian employee following his separation from the army.

ACADEMIC CAREER

Henry Kissinger received his AB degree summa cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa in political science from Harvard College in 1950, where he lived in Adams House and studied under William Yandell Elliott. He received his MA and PhD degrees at Harvard University in 1951 and 1954, respectively. In 1952, while still studying at Harvard, he served as a consultant to the director of the Psychological Strategy Board. His doctoral dissertation was titled “Peace, Legitimacy, and the Equilibrium (A Study of the Statesmanship of Castlereagh and Metternich)”.

Kissinger remained at Harvard as a member of the faculty in the Department of Government and, with Robert R. Bowie, co-founded the Center for International Affairs in 1958. In 1955, he was a consultant to the National Security Council’s Operations Coordinating Board.  During 1955 and 1956, he was also study director in nuclear weapons and foreign policy at the Council on Foreign Relations. He released his book Nuclear Weapons and Foreign Policy the following year. From 1956 to 1958 he worked for the Rockefeller Brothers Fund as director of its Special Studies Project.  He was director of the Harvard Defense Studies Program between 1958 and 1971. He was also director of the Harvard International Seminar between 1951 and 1971. Outside of academia, he served as a consultant to several government agencies and think tanks, including the Operations Research Office, the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, Department of State, and the Rand Corporation. Keen to have a greater influence on U.S. foreign policy, Kissinger became an adviser to Nelson Rockefeller and supported his bid for the Republican nomination for president in 1960, 1964, and 1968. After Richard Nixon won the presidency in 1968, he made Kissinger National Security Adviser.

FOREIGN POLICY

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Kissinger being sworn in as Secretary of State by Chief Justice Warren Burger, September 22, 1973. Kissinger’s mother, Paula, holds the Bible upon which he was sworn in while President Nixon looks on.

Kissinger served as National Security Advisor and Secretary of State under President Richard Nixon, and continued as Secretary of State under Nixon’s successor Gerald Ford. A proponent of Realpolitik, Kissinger played a dominant role in United States foreign policy between 1969 and 1977. In that period, he extended the policy of détente. This policy led to a significant relaxation in US–Soviet tensions and played a crucial role in 1971 talks with Chinese Premier Zhou En-lai. The talks concluded with a rapprochement between the United States and the People’s Republic of China, and the formation of a new strategic anti-Soviet Sino-American alignment. He was jointly awarded the 1973 Nobel Peace Prize with Lê Đức Thọ for helping to establish a ceasefire and U.S. withdrawal from Vietnam. The ceasefire, however, was not durable, Thọ declined to accept the award and Kissinger appeared deeply ambivalent about it (donating his prize money to charity, not attending the award ceremony and later offering to return his prize medal. As National Security Advisor, in 1974 Kissinger directed the much-debated National Security Study Memorandum 200.

DETENTE AND OPENING TO CHINA

As National Security Advisor under Nixon, Kissinger pioneered the policy of détente with the Soviet Union, seeking a relaxation in tensions between the two superpowers. As a part of this strategy, he negotiated the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (culminating in the SALT I treaty) and the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty with Leonid Brezhnev, General Secretary of the Soviet Communist Party. Negotiations about strategic disarmament were originally supposed to start under the Johnson Administration but were postponed in protest upon the invasion by Warsaw Pact troops of Czechoslovakia in August 1968.

 

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Kissinger, shown here with Zhou Enlai and Mao Zedong, negotiated rapprochement with the People’s Republic of China.

Kissinger sought to place diplomatic pressure on the Soviet Union. He made two trips to the People’s Republic of China in July and October 1971 (the first of which was made in secret) to confer with Premier Zhou En-lai, then in charge of Chinese foreign policy. According to Kissinger’s book, “The White House Years”, the first secret China trip was arranged through Pakistan’s diplomatic and Presidential involvement, as there were no direct communication channels between the states. His trips paved the way for the groundbreaking 1972 summit between Nixon, Zhou, and Communist Party of China Chairman Mao Zedong, as well as the formalization of relations between the two countries, ending 23 years of diplomatic isolation and mutual hostility. The result was the formation of a tacit strategic anti-Soviet alliance between China and the United States.

While Kissinger’s diplomacy led to economic and cultural exchanges between the two sides and the establishment of Liaison Offices in the Chinese and American capitals, with serious implications for Indochinese matters, full normalization of relations with the People’s Republic of China would not occur until 1979, because the Watergate scandal overshadowed the latter years of the Nixon presidency and because the United States continued to recognize the government of Taiwan.

In September 1989, the Wall Street Journal’s John Fialka disclosed that Kissinger took a direct economic interest in US-China relations in March 1989 with the establishment of China Ventures, Inc., a Delaware limited partnership, of which he was chairman of the board and chief executive officer. A US$75 million investment in a joint venture with the Communist Party government’s primary commercial vehicle at the time, China International Trust & Investment Corporation (CITIC), was its purpose. Board members were major clients of Kissinger Associates. Kissinger was criticized for not disclosing his role in the venture when called upon by ABC’s Peter Jennings to comment the morning after the June 4, 1989, Tiananmen crackdown. Kissinger’s position was generally supportive of Deng Xiaoping’s clearance of the square and he opposed economic sanctions.

VIETNAM WAR

 

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Kissinger with President Richard Nixon, discussing Vietnam situation in Camp David, 1972.

Kissinger’s involvement in Indochina started prior to his appointment as National Security Adviser to Nixon. While still at Harvard, he had worked as a consultant on foreign policy to both the White House and State Department. Kissinger says that “In August 1965 … [Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr.], an old friend serving as Ambassador to Saigon, had asked me to visit Vietnam as his consultant. I toured Vietnam first for two weeks in October and November 1965, again for about ten days in July 1966, and a third time for a few days in October 1966 … Lodge gave me a free hand to look into any subject of my choice”. He became convinced of the meaninglessness of military victories in Vietnam, “… unless they brought about a political reality that could survive our ultimate withdrawal”. In a 1967 peace initiative, he would mediate between Washington and Hanoi.

Nixon had been elected in 1968 on the promise of achieving “peace with honor” and ending the Vietnam War. In office, and assisted by Kissinger, Nixon implemented a policy of Vietnamization that aimed to gradually withdraw U.S. troops while expanding the combat role of the South Vietnamese Army so that it would be capable of independently defending its government against the National Front for the Liberation of South Vietnam, a Communist guerrilla organization, and North Vietnamese army (Vietnam People’s Army or PAVN). Kissinger played a key role in bombing Cambodia to disrupt PAVN and Viet Cong units launching raids into South Vietnam from within Cambodia’s borders and resupplying their forces by using the Ho Chi Minh trail and other routes, as well as the 1970 Cambodian Incursion and subsequent widespread bombing of Khmer Rouge targets in Cambodia. The bombing campaign contributed to the chaos of the Cambodian Civil War, which saw the forces of leader Lon Nol unable to retain foreign support to combat the growing Khmer Rouge insurgency that would overthrow him in 1975.  Documents uncovered from the Soviet archives after 1991 reveal that the North Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia in 1970 was launched at the explicit request of the Khmer Rouge and negotiated by Pol Pot’s then second in command, Nuon Chea. The American bombing of Cambodia resulted in 40,000-150,000 deaths from 1969 to 1973, including at least 5,000 civilians. Kissinger himself said there were about 50,000 civilian casualties in the bombing.  Pol Pot biographer David P. Chandler argues that the bombing “had the effect the Americans wanted—it broke the Communist encirclement of Phnom Penh.” However, Ben Kiernan and Taylor Owen suggest that “the bombs drove ordinary Cambodians into the arms of the Khmer Rouge, a group that seemed initially to have slim prospects of revolutionary success.”

Along with North Vietnamese Politburo Member Le Duc Tho, Kissinger was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize on December 10, 1973, for their work in negotiating the ceasefires contained in the Paris Peace Accords on “Ending the War and Restoring Peace in Vietnam”, signed the previous January. According to Irwin Abrams, this prize was the most controversial to date. For the first time in the history of the Peace Prize, two members left the Nobel Committee in protest. Tho rejected the award, telling Kissinger that peace had not been restored in South Vietnam.[ Kissinger wrote to the Nobel Committee that he accepted the award “with humility,” and “donated the entire proceeds to the children of American service members killed or missing in action in Indochina.” After the Fall of Saigon in 1975, Kissinger attempted to return the award.

BANGLADESH WAR

Under Kissinger’s guidance, the United States government supported Pakistan in the Bangladesh Liberation War in 1971. Kissinger was particularly concerned about the expansion of Soviet influence in South Asia as a result of a treaty of friendship recently signed by India and the USSR, and sought to demonstrate to the People’s Republic of China (Pakistan’s ally and an enemy of both India and the USSR) the value of a tacit alliance with the United States.

Kissinger sneered at people who “bleed” for “the dying Bengalis” and ignored the first telegram from the United States consul general in East Pakistan, Archer K. Blood, and 20 members of his staff, which informed the US that their allies West Pakistan were undertaking, in Blood’s words, “a selective genocide“.  In the second, more famous, Blood Telegram the word genocide was again used to describe the events, and further that with its continuing support for West Pakistan the US government had “evidenced […] moral bankruptcy“. As a direct response to the dissent against US policy Kissinger and Nixon ended Archer Blood’s tenure as United States consul general in East Pakistan and put him to work in the State Department’s Personnel Office.

Henry Kissinger had also come under fire for private comments he made to Nixon during the Bangladesh–Pakistan War in which he described Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi as a “bitch” and a “witch“. He also said “The Indians are bastards“, shortly before the war. Kissinger has since expressed his regret over the comments.

ISRAELI POLICY AND SOVIET JEWRY

According to notes taken by H. R. Haldeman, Nixon “ordered his aides to exclude all Jewish-Americans from policy-making on Israel”, including Kissinger. One note quotes Nixon as saying “get K. [Kissinger] out of the play—Haig handle it”.

In 1973, Kissinger did not feel that pressing the Soviet Union concerning the plight of Jews being persecuted there was in the interest of U.S. foreign policy. In conversation with Nixon shortly after a meeting with Golda Meir on March 1, 1973, Kissinger stated, “The emigration of Jews from the Soviet Union is not an objective of American foreign policy, and if they put Jews into gas chambers in the Soviet Union, it is not an American concern. Maybe a humanitarian concern.” Kissinger argued, however:

That emigration existed at all was due to the actions of “realists” in the White House. Jewish emigration rose from 700 a year in 1969 to near 40,000 in 1972. The total in Nixon’s first term was more than 100,000. To maintain this flow by quiet diplomacy, we never used these figures for political purposes. … The issue became public because of the success of our Middle East policy when Egypt evicted Soviet advisers. To restore its relations with Cairo, the Soviet Union put a tax on Jewish emigration. There was no Jackson–Vanik Amendment until there was a successful emigration effort. Sen. Henry Jackson, for whom I had, and continue to have, high regard, sought to remove the tax with his amendment. We thought the continuation of our previous approach of quiet diplomacy was the wiser course. … Events proved our judgment correct. Jewish emigration fell to about a third of its previous high.

1973 YOM KIPPUR WAR

Documents show that Kissinger delayed telling President Richard Nixon about the start of the Yom Kippur War in 1973 to keep him from interfering. On October 6, 1973, the Israelis informed Kissinger about the attack at 6 am; Kissinger waited nearly 3 and a half hours before he informed Nixon.

Nixon_and_Kissinger

On October 31, 1973, Egyptian Foreign Minister Ismail Fahmi (left) meets with Richard Nixon (middle) and Henry Kissinger (right), about a week after the end of fighting in the Yom Kippur War.

According to Kissinger, in an interview in November 2013, he was notified at 6:30 a.m. (12:30 pm. Israel time) that war was imminent, and his urgent calls to the Soviets and Egyptians were ineffective. He says Golda Meir’s decision not to preempt was wise and reasonable, balancing the risk of Israel looking like the aggressor and Israel’s actual ability to strike within such a brief span of time.

The war began on October 6, 1973, when Egypt and Syria attacked Israel. Kissinger published lengthy telephone transcripts from this period in the 2002 book Crisis. On October 12, under Nixon’s direction, and against Kissinger’s initial advice, while Kissinger was on his way to Moscow to discuss conditions for a cease-fire, Nixon sent a message to Brezhnev giving Kissinger full negotiating authority.

Israel regained the territory it lost in the early fighting and gained new territories from Syria and Egypt, including land in Syria east of the previously captured Golan Heights, and additionally on the western bank of the Suez Canal, although they did lose some territory on the eastern side of the Suez Canal that had been in Israeli hands since the end of the Six Day War. Kissinger pressured the Israelis to cede some of the newly captured land back to its Arab neighbors, contributing to the first phases of Israeli-Egyptian non-aggression. The move saw a warming in U.S.–Egyptian relations, bitter since the 1950s, as the country moved away from its former independent stance and into a close partnership with the United States. The peace was finalized in 1978 when U.S. President Jimmy Carter mediated the Camp David Accords, during which Israel returned the Sinai Peninsula in exchange for an Egyptian peace agreement that included the recognition of the state of Israel.

TURKISH INVASION OF CYPRUS

Following a period of steady relations between the U.S. Government and the Greek military regime after 1967, Secretary of State Kissinger was faced with the coup by the Greek junta and the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in July and August 1974. In an August 1974 edition of the New York Times, it was revealed that Kissinger and State Department were informed in advance of the impending coup by the Greek junta in Cyprus. Indeed, according to the journalist, the official version of events as told by the State Department was that it felt it had to warn the Greek military regime not to carry out the coup. The warning had been delivered by July 9, according to repeated assurances from its Athens services, that is, the U.S. embassy and the American ambassador Henry J. Tasca himself.

Ioannis Zigdis, then a Greek MP for Centre Union and former minister, stated in an Athenian newspaper that “the Cyprus crisis will become Kissinger’s Watergate”. Zigdis also stressed: “Not only did Kissinger know about the coup for the overthrow of Archbishop Makarios before July 15th, he also encouraged it, if he did not instigate it.”

Kissinger was a target of anti-American sentiment which was a significant feature of Greek public opinion at the time—particularly among young people—viewing the U.S. role in Cyprus as negative. In a demonstration by students in Heraklion, Crete, soon after the second phase of the Turkish invasion in August 1974, slogans such as “Kissinger, murderer”, “Americans get out”, “No to Partition” and “Cyprus is no Vietnam” were heard.

Some years later, Kissinger expressed the opinion that the Cyprus issue was resolved in 1974,  a position very similar to that held by Turkish prime minister Bulent Ecevit, who had ordered the invasion.

LATIN AMERICAN POLICY

220px-Ford_and_Kissinger_conversing,_on_grounds_of_White_House,_16_Aug_1974

Ford and Kissinger conversing on grounds of the White House, August 1974

 The United States continued to recognize and maintain relationships with non-left-wing governments, democratic and authoritarian alike. John F. Kennedy’s Alliance for Progress was ended in 1973. In 1974, negotiations about a new settlement over the Panama Canal started. They eventually led to the Torrijos-Carter Treaties and the handing over of the Canal to Panamanian control.

Kissinger initially supported the normalization of United States-Cuba relations; broken since 1961 (all U.S.–Cuban trade was blocked in February 1962, a few weeks after the exclusion of Cuba from the Organization of American States because of U.S. pressure). However, he quickly changed his mind and followed Kennedy’s policy. After the involvement of the Cuban Revolutionary Armed Forces in the independence struggles in Angola and Mozambique, Kissinger said that unless Cuba withdrew its forces relations would not be normalized. Cuba refused.

INTERVENTION IN CHILE

Chilean Socialist Party presidential candidate Salvador Allende was elected by a plurality of 36.2% in 1970, causing serious concern in Washington, D.C. due to his openly socialist and pro-Cuban politics. The Nixon administration, with Kissinger’s input, authorized the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to encourage a military coup that would prevent Allende’s inauguration, but the plan was not successful.

Reunión_Pinochet_-_Kissinger

Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet shaking hands with Kissinger in 1976

 United States-Chile relations remained frosty during Salvador Allende’s tenure, following the complete nationalization of the partially U.S.-owned copper mines and the Chilean subsidiary of the U.S.-based ITT Corporation, as well as other Chilean businesses. The U.S. claimed that the Chilean government had greatly undervalued fair compensation for the nationalization by subtracting what it deemed “excess profits”. Therefore, the U.S. implemented economic sanctions against Chile. The CIA also provided funding for the mass anti-government strikes in 1972 and 1973, and extensive black propaganda in the newspaper El Mercurio.

The most expeditious way to prevent Allende from assuming office was somehow to convince the Chilean congress to confirm Jorge Alessandri as the winner of the election. Once elected by the congress, Alessandri—a party to the plot through intermediaries—was prepared to resign his presidency within a matter of days so that new elections could be held. This first, nonmilitary, approach to stopping Allende was called the Track I approach. The CIA’s second approach, the Track II approach, was designed to encourage a military overthrow.

On September 11, 1973, Allende died during a military coup launched by Army Commander-in-Chief Augusto Pinochet, who became President. A document released by the CIA in 2000 titled “CIA Activities in Chile” revealed that the United States, acting through the CIA, actively supported the military junta after the overthrow of Allende and that it made many of Pinochet’s officers into paid contacts of the CIA or U.S. military.

In 1976, Orlando Letelier, a Chilean opponent of the Pinochet regime, was assassinated in Washington, D.C. with a car bomb. Previously, Kissinger had helped secure his release from prison, and had chosen to cancel a letter to Chile warning them against carrying out any political assassinations.  The U.S. ambassador to Chile, David H. Popper, said that Pinochet might take as an insult any inference that he was connected with assassination plots. It has been confirmed that Pinochet directly ordered the assassination. This murder was part of Operation Condor, a covert program of political repression and assassination carried out by Southern Cone nations that Kissinger has been accused of being involved in.

On September 10, 2001, the family of Chilean general René Schneider filed a suit against Kissinger, accusing him of collaborating in arranging Schneider’s kidnapping which resulted in his death. According to phone records, Kissinger claimed to have “turned off” the operation. However, the CIA claimed that no such “stand-down” order was ever received, and he and Nixon later joked that an “incompetent” CIA had struggled to kill Schneider.  A subsequent Congressional investigation found that the CIA was not directly involved in Schneider’s death. The case was later dismissed by a U.S. District Court, citing separation of powers: “The decision to support a coup of the Chilean government to prevent Dr. Allende from coming to power, and the means by which the United States Government sought to effect that goal, implicate policy makers in the murky realm of foreign affairs and national security best left to the political branches.”  Decades later the CIA admitted its involvement in the kidnapping of General Schneider, but not his murder, and subsequently paid the group responsible for his death $35,000 “to keep the prior contact secret, maintain the goodwill of the group, and for humanitarian reasons.”

ARGENTINA

Kissinger took a similar line as he had toward Chile when the Argentinian military, led by Jorge Videla, toppled the elected government of Isabel Perón in 1976 with a process called the National Reorganization Process by the military, with which they consolidated power, launching brutal reprisals and “disappearances” against political opponents. During a meeting with Argentinian foreign minister César Augusto Guzzetti, Kissinger assured him that the United States was an ally, but urged him to “get back to normal procedures” quickly before the U.S. Congress reconvened and had a chance to consider sanctions.  According to declassified state department files, Kissinger also attempted to thwart the Carter Administration’s efforts to halt the mass killings by the 1976-83 military dictatorship.

RHODESIA

In September 1976 Kissinger was actively involved in negotiations regarding the Rhodesian Bush War. Kissinger, along with South Africa’s Prime Minister John Vorster, pressured Rhodesian Prime Minister Ian Smith to hasten the transition to black majority rule in Rhodesia. With FRELIMO in control of Mozambique and even South Africa withdrawing its support, Rhodesia’s isolation was nearly complete. According to Smith’s autobiography, Kissinger told Smith of Mrs. Kissinger’s admiration for him, but Smith stated that he thought Kissinger was asking him to sign Rhodesia’s “death certificate”. Kissinger, bringing the weight of the United States, and corralling other relevant parties to put pressure on Rhodesia, hastened the end of minority-rule.

EAST TIMOR

The Portuguese decolonization process brought U.S. attention to the former Portuguese colony of East Timor, which lies within the Indonesian archipelago and declared its independence in 1975. Indonesian president Suharto was a strong U.S. ally in Southeast Asia and began to mobilize the Indonesian army, preparing to annex the nascent state, which had become increasingly dominated by the popular leftist FRETILIN party. In December 1975, Suharto discussed the invasion plans during a meeting with Kissinger and President Ford in the Indonesian capital of Jakarta. Both Ford and Kissinger made clear that U.S. relations with Indonesia would remain strong and that it would not object to the proposed annexation. They only wanted it done “fast” and proposed that it be delayed until after they had returned to Washington.  Accordingly, Suharto delayed the operation for one day. Finally on December 7 Indonesian forces invaded the former Portuguese colony. U.S. arms sales to Indonesia continued, and Suharto went ahead with the annexation plan. According to Ben Kiernan, the invasion and occupation resulted in the deaths of nearly a quarter of the Timorese population from 1975 to 1981.

CUBA

In February 1976 Kissinger considered launching air strikes against ports and military installations in Cuba, as well as deploying Marine battalions based at the US Navy base at Guantanamo Bay, in retaliation for Cuban President Fidel Castro’s decision in late 1975 to send troops to Angola to help the newly independent nation fend off attacks from South Africa and right-wing guerrillas.

LATER ROLES

Kissinger left office when Democrat Jimmy Carter defeated Republican Gerald Ford in the 1976 presidential elections. Kissinger continued to participate in policy groups, such as the Trilateral Commission, and to maintain political consulting, speaking, and writing engagements.

Shortly after Kissinger left office in 1977, he was offered an endowed chair at Columbia University. There was significant student opposition to the appointment, which eventually became a subject of wide media commentary.  Columbia cancelled the appointment as a result.

Kissinger was then appointed to Georgetown University’s Center for Strategic and International Studies. He taught at Georgetown’s Edmund Walsh School of Foreign Service for several years in the late 1970s. In 1982, with the help of a loan from the international banking firm of E.M. Warburg, Pincus and Company, Kissinger founded a consulting firm, Kissinger Associates, and is a partner in affiliate Kissinger McLarty Associates with Mack McLarty, former chief of staff to President Bill Clinton. He also serves on the board of directors of Hollinger International, a Chicago-based newspaper group, and as of March 1999, was a director of Gulfstream Aerospace.

From 1995 to 2001, Kissinger served on the board of directors for Freeport-McMoRan, a multinational copper and gold producer with significant mining and milling operations in Papua, Indonesia.  In February 2000, then-president of Indonesia Abdurrahman Wahid appointed Kissinger as a political advisor. He also serves as an honorary advisor to the United States-Azerbaijan Chamber of Commerce.

From 2000–2006, Kissinger served as chairman of the board of trustees of Eisenhower Fellowships. In 2006, upon his departure from Eisenhower Fellowships, he received the Dwight D. Eisenhower Medal for Leadership and Service.

In November 2002, he was appointed by President George W. Bush to chair the newly established National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States to investigate the September 11 attacks.[Kissinger stepped down as chairman on December 13, 2002 rather than reveal his business client list, when queried about potential conflicts of interest.

Kissinger—along with William Perry, Sam Nunn, and George Shultz—has called upon governments to embrace the vision of a world free of nuclear weapons, and in three Wall Street Journal op-eds proposed an ambitious program of urgent steps to that end. The four have created the Nuclear Security Project to advance this agenda. In 2010, the four were featured in a documentary film entitled “Nuclear Tipping Point”. The film is a visual and historical depiction of the ideas laid forth in the Wall Street Journal op-eds and reinforces their commitment to a world without nuclear weapons and the steps that can be taken to reach that goal.

On 17 November 2016, Kissinger met with then President Elect Donald Trump during which they discussed “China, Russia, Iran, the EU and other events and issues around the world”.

VIEWS O FOREIGN POLICY

YUGOSLAV WARS

In several articles of his and interviews that he gave during the Yugoslav wars, he criticized the United States’ policies in Southeast Europe, among other things for the recognition of Bosnia and Herzegovina as a sovereign state, which he described as a foolish act. Most importantly he dismissed the notion of Serbs, and Croats for that part, being aggressors or separatist, saying that “they can’t be separating from something that has never existed”. In addition, he repeatedly warned the West of inserting itself into a conflict that has its roots at least hundreds of years back in time, and said that the West would do better if it allowed the Serbs and Croats to join their respective countries. Kissinger shared similarly critical views on Western involvement in Kosovo. In particular, he held a disparaging view of the Rambouillet Agreement:

The Rambouillet text, which called on Serbia to admit NATO troops throughout Yugoslavia, was a provocation, an excuse to start bombing. Rambouillet is not a document that any Serb could have accepted. It was a terrible diplomatic document that should never have been presented in that form.— Henry Kissinger, Daily Telegraph, June 28, 1999

However, as the Serbs did not accept the Rambouillet text and NATO bombings started, he opted for a continuation of the bombing as NATO’s credibility was now at stake, but dismissed the use of ground forces, claiming that it was not worth it.

IRAQ

In 2006, it was reported in the book State of Denial by Bob Woodward that Kissinger met regularly with President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney to offer advice on the Iraq War. Kissinger confirmed in recorded interviews with Woodward that the advice was the same as he had given in an August 12, 2005 column in The Washington Post: “Victory over the insurgency is the only meaningful exit strategy.”

In a November 19, 2006, interview on BBC Sunday AM, Kissinger said, when asked whether there is any hope left for a clear military victory in Iraq, “If you mean by ‘military victory’ an Iraqi government that can be established and whose writ runs across the whole country, that gets the civil war under control and sectarian violence under control in a time period that the political processes of the democracies will support, I don’t believe that is possible. … I think we have to redefine the course. But I don’t believe that the alternative is between military victory as it had been defined previously or total withdrawal.”

In an April 3, 2008, interview with Peter Robinson of the Hoover Institution, Kissinger reiterated that even though he supported the 2003 invasion of Iraq he thought that the George W. Bush administration rested too much of its case for war on Saddam’s supposed weapons of mass destruction. Robinson noted that Kissinger had criticized the administration for invading with too few troops, for disbanding the Iraqi Army, and for mishandling relations with certain allies.

INDIA

Kissinger said in April 2008 that “India has parallel objectives to the United States,” and he called it an ally of the U.S.

CHINA

Kissinger was present at the opening ceremony of the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics. In 2011, Kissinger published On China, chronicling the evolution of Sino-American relations and laying out the challenges to a partnership of ‘genuine strategic trust’ between the U.S. and China.

IRAN

Kissinger’s position on this issue of U.S.–Iran talks was reported by the Tehran Times to be that “Any direct talks between the U.S. and Iran on issues such as the nuclear dispute would be most likely to succeed if they first involved only diplomatic staff and progressed to the level of secretary of state before the heads of state meet.”

2014 UKRANIAN CRISIS

DIG13877_jjg-318

Henry Kissinger in 2016.

On March 5, 2014, The Washington Post published an op-ed piece by Kissinger, 11 days before the Crimean referendum on whether Autonomous Republic of Crimea should officially rejoin in Ukraine or join neighboring Russia. In it, he attempted to balance the Ukrainian, Russian and Western desires for a functional state. He made four main points:

  • Ukraine should have the right to choose freely its economic and political associations, including with Europe;
  • Ukraine should not join NATO, a repetition of the position he took seven years before;
  • Ukraine should be free to create any government compatible with the expressed will of its people. Wise Ukrainian leaders would then opt for a policy of reconciliation between the various parts of their country. He imagined an international position for Ukraine like that of Finland.
  • Ukraine should maintain sovereignty over Crimea.
  • Kissinger also wrote: “The west speaks Ukrainian; the east speaks mostly Russian. Any attempt by one wing of Ukraine to dominate the other—as has been the pattern—would lead eventually to civil war or break up.”

Following the publication of his book titled World Order; Kissinger participated in an interview with Charlie Rose and updated his position on Ukraine, which he sees as a possible geographical mediator between Russia and the West. In a question he posed to himself for illustration regarding re-conceiving policy regarding Ukraine, Kissinger stated: “If Ukraine is considered an outpost, then the situation is that its eastern border is the NATO strategic line, and NATO will be within 200 miles (320 km) of Volgograd. That will never be accepted by Russia. On the other hand, if the Russian western line is at the border of Poland, Europe will be permanently disquieted. The Strategic objective should have been to see whether one can build Ukraine as a bridge between East and West, and whether one can do it as a kind of a joint effort.”

In December 2016, Kissinger advised then President-elect Donald Trump to accept “Crimea as a part of Russia” in an attempt to secure a rapprochement between the United States and Russia, whose relations soured as a result of the Crimean crisis.

PUBLIC PERCEPTION 

At the height of Kissinger’s prominence, many commented on his wit. In February 1972, at the Washington Press Club annual congressional dinner, “Kissinger mocked his reputation as a secret swinger.” The insight, “Power is the ultimate aphrodisiac”, is widely attributed to him, although Kissinger was paraphrasing Napoleon Bonaparte. Some scholars have ranked Kissinger as the most effective U.S. Secretary of State in the 50 years to 2015. A number of activists and human rights lawyers, however, have sought his prosecution for alleged war crimes. According to historian and Kissinger biographer Niall Ferguson, however, accusing Kissinger alone of war crimes “requires a double standard” because “nearly all the secretaries of state … and nearly all the presidents” have taken similar actions.

Kissinger was interviewed in Back Door Channels: The Price of Peace, a documentary examining the underpinnings of the 1979 peace treaty between Israel and Egypt.  In the film, Kissinger revealed how close he felt the world came to nuclear war during the 1973 Yom Kippur War launched by Egypt and Syria against Israel.

Attempts have been made to attach liability to Kissinger for injustices in American foreign policy during his tenure in government. In September 2001, relatives and survivors of General Rene Schneider, the former head of the Chilean general staff, commenced civil proceedings in Federal Court in Washington, DC, and, in April 2002, a petition for Kissinger’s arrest was filed in the High Court in London by human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, citing the destruction of civilian populations and the environment in Indochina during the years 1969-75. Both suits were determined to lack legal foundation and were dismissed before trial. British-American journalist and author Christopher Hitchens authored The Trial of Henry Kissinger, in which Hitchens calls for the prosecution of Kissinger “for war crimes, for crimes against humanity, and for offenses against common or customary or international law, including conspiracy to commit murder, kidnap, and torture”.  Critics on the right, such as Ray Takeyh, have faulted Kissinger for his role in the Nixon administration’s opening to China and secret negotiations with North Vietnam. Takeyh writes that while rapprochement with China was a worthy goal, the Nixon administration failed to achieve any meaningful concessions from Chinese officials in return, as China continued to support North Vietnam and various “revolutionary forces throughout the Third World,” “nor does there appear to be even a remote, indirect connection between Nixon and Kissinger’s diplomacy and the communist leadership’s decision, after Mao’s bloody rule, to move away from a communist economy towards state capitalism.” On Vietnam, Takeyh claims that Kissinger’s negotiations with Le Duc Tho were intended only “to secure a ‘decent interval’ between America’s withdrawal and South Vietnam’s collapse.” Johannes Kadura offers a more positive assessment of Nixon and Kissinger’s strategy, arguing that the two men “simultaneously maintained a Plan A of further supporting Saigon and a Plan B of shielding Washington should their maneuvers prove futile.” According to Kadura, the “decent interval” concept has been “largely misrepresented,” in that Nixon and Kissinger “sought to gain time, make the North turn inward, and create a perpetual equilibrium” rather than acquiescing in the collapse of South Vietnam, but the strength of the anti-war movement and the sheer unpredictability of events in Indochina compelled them to prepare for the possibility that South Vietnam might collapse despite their best efforts. Kadura concludes: “Without Nixon, Kissinger, and Ford’s clever use of triangular diplomacy … The Soviets and the Chinese could have been tempted into a far more aggressive stance” following the “U.S. defeat in Indochina” than actually occurred. In 2011, Chimerica Media released an interview-based documentary, titled Kissinger, in which Kissinger “reflects on some of his most important and controversial decisions” during his tenure as Secretary of State.

Kissinger’s record was brought up during the 2016 Democratic Party presidential primaries. Hillary Clinton had cultivated a close relationship with Kissinger, describing him as a “friend” and a source of “counsel.” During the Democratic Primary Debates, Clinton touted Kissinger’s praise for her record as Secretary of State.  In response, candidate Bernie Sanders issued a critique of Kissinger’s foreign policy, declaring: “I am proud to say that Henry Kissinger is not my friend. I will not take advice from Henry Kissinger.”

AWARDS, HONOURS, AND ASSOCIATIONS

Kissinger and Le Duc Tho were jointly offered the 1973 Nobel Peace Prize for their work on the Paris Peace Accords which prompted the withdrawal of American forces from the Vietnam war. (Le Duc Tho declined to accept the award on the grounds that such “bourgeois sentimentalities” were not for him and that peace had not actually been achieved in Vietnam. Kissinger donated his prize money to charity, did not attend the award ceremony and would later offer to return his prize medal after the fall of South Vietnam to North Vietnamese forces 18 months later.

In 1973, Kissinger received the U.S. Senator John Heinz Award for Greatest Public Service by an Elected or Appointed Official, an award given out annually by Jefferson Awards.

In 1976, Kissinger became the first honorary member of the Harlem Globetrotters.

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President Ford, General Secretary Leonid Brezhnev, and Kissinger speaking informally at the Vladivostok Summit in 1974

  • On January 13, 1977, Kissinger received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Gerald Ford
  • In 1980, Kissinger won the National Book Award in History for the first volume of his memoirs, The White House Years.
  • In 1995, he was made an honorary Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire.
  • In 2000, Kissinger received the Sylvanus Thayer Award at United States Military Academy at West Point.
  • In 2002, Kissinger became an honour member of the International Olympic Committee.
  • On March 1, 2012, Kissinger was awarded Israel’s President’s Medal.
  • In October 2013, Kissinger was awarded the Henry A. Grunwald Award for Public Service by Lighthouse International
  • Kissinger was a member of the Founding Council of the Rothermere American Institute, University of Oxford.

WRITINGS: Memoirs

1979. The White House Years. ISBN 0-316-49661-8 (National Book Award, History Hardcover)

1982. Years of Upheaval. ISBN 0-316-28591-9

1999. Years of Renewal. ISBN 0-684-85571-2

PERSONAL DETAILS

Born: Heinz Alfred Kissinger on May 27, 1923 (age 93) at Fürth, Germany

Political party: Republican

Education

  • City College of New York
  • Harvard University (BA, MA, PhD)

Civilian awards: Nobel Peace Prize

Military service in United States Army

  • Years of service: 1943–1946
  • Rank: US Army WWII SGT.svg Sergeant
  • Unit: 970th Counter Intelligence Corps

 Battles/wars

  • World War II

Military awards

  • Bronze Star Medal ribbon.svg Bronze Star

Family

Kissinger married Ann Fleischer, with whom he had two children, Elizabeth and David. They divorced in 1964. Ten years later, he married Nancy Maginnes. They lived in Kent, Connecticut and New York City. His son David Kissinger was an executive with NBC Universal before becoming head of Conaco, Conan O’Brien’s production company.

Children: 2

He described diplomacy as his favorite game in a 1973 interview.

By courtesy of Wikipedia.org

The Crisis Accelerates

The India-Pakistan Crisis of 1971

Just before my departure for Asia, Yahya on June 28 announced a plan to transfer political power to civilians. A new constitution drawn up by experts would be proclaimed within four months; Awami League members not associated with secession would be eligible to participate in the new government. Yahya did not explain to what category of leaders this might apply.

While I was en route, I received disturbing information that the Soviet Union had at last perceived its strategic opportunity. Abandoning its caution, it had informed India of its approval of guerrilla operations into East Pakistan and had promised India protection against Chinese reprisals. A new and ominous dimension had been added to the conflict. (This occurred well before our China initiative.)

In visiting New Delhi, I had two partially contradictory missions. One was to prepare India circumspectly for the news of my visit to China. Noting the Ping-Pong diplomacy and our two-year record of overtures in trade and travel, I stressed that we were bound to continue to improve our relations with Peking. On the other hand, we would take a grave view of an unprovoked Chinese attack on India. If this unsolicited comment did not utterly mystify my interlocutors, it may have given them a brief moment of encouragement–though that moment of euphoria surely ended with the July 15 announcement of my trip to China.

We must await the memoirs of my interlocutors to see whether the Indian ministers considered my reassurances the best we could do given our constraints, or an effort at deception. The major topic of my talks in New Delhi was the crisis in East Pakistan. I reported to the President:

There seems to be a growing sense of inevitability of war or a least widespread Hindu-Muslim violence, not necessarily because anyone wants it but because in the end they fear they will not know how to avoid it . . .

I assured [Mrs. Gandhi] the whole point of our policy has been to retain enough influence to urge creation of conditions that would permit the refugees to go back, although we would not promise results. I asked how much more time she thought there was before the situation became unmanageable, and she replied that it is unmanageable now and that they are “just holding it together by sheer willpower.”

The conversation with Indian leaders, in fact, followed the ritual of the previous weeks. As I had done on many occasions with Indian Ambassador Jha in Washington, I tried to assure them that the United States was eager to maintain good relations with India. We did not oppose Bengali autonomy, and we were confident we could encourage a favourable evolution if we dealt with Yahya as a friend instead of as another tormentor. I invited Mrs. Gandhi to visit the United States for a fundamental review of Indian-American relations with President Nixon.

But Mrs. Gandhi and her ministers were in no mood for conciliation. The invitation to Washington was evaded. They avowed their desire to improve relations with the United States but passionately accused us of deception over arms sales to Pakistan. The stridency of these complaints was in no way diminished by the facts: that almost all arms shipments to Pakistan had been stopped, including the “one-time exception”; that no new licenses were being issued; and that the only items still in transit were the trickle licensed before the ban went into effect. India could have no serious concern about this minuscule flow; it would end automatically as licenses expired; our estimate, indeed, was that nothing would be left in the pipeline after October. Mrs. Gandhi even admitted to me that the amounts were not the issue, but the symbolism. In other words, India wanted the demoralisation of Pakistan through the conspicuous disassociation of the United States. I was pressed to cut off not only arms but all economic aid as well. Indian leaders evidently did not think it strange that a country which had distanced itself from most of our foreign policy objectives in the name of nonalignment was asking us to break all ties with an ally over what was in international law a domestic conflict. The American contribution to refugee relief by July had reached nearly $100 million; this did not keep Mrs. Gandhi from broadening her criticisms to encompass the entire twenty-four-year record of our policies toward Pakistan. I left New Delhi with the conviction that India was bent on a showdown with Pakistan. It was only waiting for the right moment. The opportunity to settle scores with a rival that had isolated itself by its own short-sightedness was simply too tempting.

On my visit to Islamabad, I was preoccupied with my impending journey to Peking. But I had several conversations with President Yahya and Foreign Secretary Sultan Khan. I urged them to put forward a comprehensive proposal to encourage refugees to return home and to deny India a pretext for going to war. I urged Yahya and his associates to go a step farther in the internationalization of relief by admitting the United Nations to supervise its distribution. And I recommended the early appointment of a civilian governor for East Pakistan. Yahya promised to consider these suggestions. But fundamentally, he was oblivious to his perils and unprepared to face necessities. He and his colleagues did not believe that India might be planning war; if so, they were convinced they would win. When I asked tactfully as I could about the Indian advantage in numbers and equipment, Yahya and his colleagues answered with bravado about the historic superiority of Moslem fighters.

There simply was no blinking the fact that Pakistan’s military leaders were caught up in a process beyond their comprehension. They could not conceive of the dismemberment of their country; and those who could, saw no way of surviving such a catastrophe politically if they cooperated with it. They had no understanding of the psychological and political isolation into which they had manoeuvred their country by their brutal suppression. They agreed theoretically that they needed a comprehensive program if they were to escape their dilemmas. But their definition of “comprehensive” was too grudging, legalistic, technical and piecemeal. The result was that never throughout the crisis did Pakistan manage to put forward a position on which it could take its international stand. In fact, its piecemeal concessions, though cumulatively not inconsiderable, played into India’s hands; they proved its case that something was wrong without providing a convincing remedy. Yahya found himself at a tragic impasse. Accused by conservative colleagues of hazarding his country’s unity and by foreign opinion of brutally suppressing freedom, he vacillated, going too far for his conservatives, not far enough for the world, and especially American, public opinion.

At a dinner given for me the night before I left for Peking, I had an opportunity to chide Yahya for the mess that had been created. “Everyone calls me a dictator,” bellowed Yahya in his bluff imitation of the Sandhurst manner. “Am I a dictator?” he asked every guest, American as well as Pakistani, in turn. Everyone protested with varying degrees of sincerity that of course Yahya was not a dictator. When it came to me, I said: “I don’t know, Mr. President, except that for a dictator you run a lousy election.”

 The festering crisis naturally came up in my conversations in Peking. Chou en-lai’s perspective could not have been more different from the conventional wisdom in Washington. He quite simply considered India the aggressor; he spent an hour of our scarce time recounting his version of the Sino-Indian clashes of 1962, which he claimed had been provoked by Indian encroachments. Chou insisted that China would not be indifferent if India attacked Pakistan. He even asked me to convey this expression of Chinese support to Yahya–a gesture intended for Washington, since Peking had an Ambassador in Islamabad quite capable of delivering messages. I replied that the United States had traditional ties with Pakistan, and we were grateful for its arranging the opening to China. We would continue to maintain friendly relations with India, but we would strongly oppose any Indian military action. Our disapproval could not, however, take the form of military aid or military measures on behalf of Pakistan.

I returned to Washington with a premonition for disaster. India, in my view, would almost certainly attack Pakistan shortly after the monsoon ended. Though I was confident that we could succeed in nudging Islamabad toward autonomy for East Pakistan. I doubted that India would give us the time and thus miss an opportunity, which might not soon come again, of settling accounts with a country whose very existence many of its leaders found so offensive. China might then act. The Soviet Union might use the opportunity to teach Peking a lesson. For us to gang up on Pakistan–as our media and Congress were so insistently demanding– would accelerate the danger; it would give India an even stronger justification to attack. It would jeopardize the China initiative. At that time, prior to Nixon’s visit to Peking, we had no way of knowing how firm China’s commitment to the opening to Washington really was.

Nixon called the National Security Council together on July 16, the day after he announced his trip to China. It was a sign of how seriously he took the crisis. He asked me to sum up the issues. I said India seemed bent on war. I did not think that Yahya had the imagination to solve the political problems in time to prevent the Indian assault. On the other hand, 70,000 West Pakistani soldiers (they had been augmented since March) could not hold down 75 million East Pakistanis for long. Our objective had to be an evolution that would lead to independence for East Pakistan. Unfortunately, this was not likely to happen in time to head off an Indian attack. Therefore, immediate efforts were needed to arrest and reverse the flow of refugees and thereby remove the pretext for war.

There was no disagreement with my analysis. Rogers had his judgement that India was doing everything in its power to prevent the refugees from returning. Nixon concluded that we would ask the Pakistanis to do their maximum on refugees. We would not countenance an Indian attack; if India used force, all American aid would be cut off. Every effort should be made to avoid a war.

On July 23, Pakistani Ambassador Agha Hilaly informed us that his government accepted our suggestion of UN supervision of the resettlement of refugees to guarantee them against reprisals. Yahya also went along with our recommendation to appoint a civilian administrator to oversee refugee relief and resettlement. I strongly urged Hilaly to accelerate their efforts.

Unfortunately, India would have none of it. The very reasons that made the strategy of concentrating on refugees attractive to us caused India to obstruct it. As early as July 15, Indian Ambassador Jha told us that India could not accept proposals to curb guerrilla activity from its territory. On July 16, Indian Foreign Secretary Kaul told us ha India would not accept UN personnel on its side of the border even to handle refugees. This was Catch-22 again. Everyone agreed that a condition for political progress in the East was the return of the Pakistani army to its barracks, which was one reason we were pressing for the appointment of a civilian administrator. But there was no way to induce the Pakistani army to do so as long as its neighbour conducted a guerrilla war against it–and proclaimed its determination to escalate that war. Pakistan had agreed to place the resettlement of refugees under UN supervision. But this could not be implemented if the refugees could not even learn of Pakistan’s offers because UN personnel were barred from any contact with them in India to explain their prospects if they returned. In the absence of any outside observers in these camps we could not even be sure of the actual number of refugees.

Two Senior Review Group meetings, on July 23 and July 30, discussed these dilemmas. On no issue–except perhaps Cambodia–was the split between the White House and the departments so profound as on the India-Pakistan crisis in the summer of 1971. On no other problem was there such flagrant disregard of unambiguous Presidential directives. The State Department controlled the machinery of execution. Nixon left it to me to ensure that his policy was carried out and to bring major disagreements to him. But what we faced was a constant infighting over seemingly trivial issues, any one of which seemed too lightweight or technical to raise to the President but whose accumulation would define the course of national policy. Nixon was not prepared to overrule his Secretary of State on what appeared to him minor operational matters; this freed the State Department to interpret Nixon’s directives in accordance with its own preferences, thereby vitiating the course Nixon had set.

No one could speak for five minutes with Nixon, without hearing of his profound distrust of Indian motives, his concern over Soviet meddling, and above all his desire not to risk the opening to China by ill-considered posturing.

Nixon had ordered repeatedly that we should move Pakistan toward political accommodation through understanding rather than pressure. The State Department had every right to a contrary view: that massive public pressure would make Pakistan more pliable. What strained White House–State relations was the effort by State to implement its views when the President had chosen a different course. For example, in early September we found out through the Pakistanis that the State Department had privately opened negotiations with them to cut off even the trivial amount of military equipment licensed before March 25. The White House thought that Pakistan was moving through the painful process of disintegration and wanted to take account of the anguish of an old ally, the limited horizon of its leaders, and its internal stresses; therefore, we wanted to avoid announcing a formal embargo, although our actions amounted to as much. The State Department was more conscious of our critics at home and was loath to antagonise India. My nightmare was that the effort to placate India would generate a war. As I told the Senior Review Group on July 30, “We should urge Yahya to restore an increasing degree of participation by the people of East Pakistan. But the clock of war is running in India faster than the clock on political accommodation. We are determined to avoid war.” I had told the President on July 27 that the State was beginning to throttle even our economic aid to Pakistan: “If anything will tempt the Indians to attack, it will be the complete helplessness of Pakistan.” Whatever the merits of this debate, the fact was that Nixon was President, and that departments, after having stated their case, should carry out not only the letter but also the spirit of Presidential decisions even if they disagree and even if they have to face outside or Congressional criticisms in doing so.

The problem was accentuated by the anomaly that some long-forgotten State Department reorganization had placed the subcontinent in the Near East Bureau, whose jurisdiction ended at the subcontinent’s eastern boundary; it excluded East Asia and any consideration of China. Senior officials who might have been conscious of China’s concerns had been excluded from the opening to Peking. Hence, there was no one at State who felt fully responsible for the “China account” or even fully understood its rationale–this was one of the prices paid for our unorthodox method of administration. In inter agency debates my office was not infrequently accused of an obsession with “protecting the trip to China,” as if preserving that option were somehow an unworthy enterprise. Not a single bureaucratic analysis of India-Pakistan during the period seriously addressed the impact of our conduct on China. Peking was not rejected by our bureaucracy. It was simply ignored. The gulf in perception between the White House and the rest of the government became apparent in an options paper prepared for the July 23 Senior Review Group meeting. It recommended that if China intervened in an India-Pakistan war, the United States should extend military assistance to India and coordinate its actions with the Soviet Union and Great Britain. Nothing more contrary to the President’s foreign policy could have been imagined.

Nixon stated succinctly at his August 4 press conference that we were not going to engage in public pressure on Pakistan: “That would be totally counterproductive. These are matters that we will discuss only in private channels.” Despite this, nearly all operational proposals by the bureaucracy were aimed at increasing pressure on Pakistan. I asked at the July 30 Senior Review Group meeting: “What would an enemy do to Pakistan? We are already cutting off military and economic aid to them. The President has said repeatedly that we should lean toward Pakistan, but every proposal that is made goes directly counter to these instructions.”

As I have mentioned, State had come up with the proposal that the remaining $3-to-$4 million in the military pipeline be cancelled by agreement with Pakistan. The justification was that this would make it easier for us to maintain economic assistance. I reluctantly went along, though I thought it an unworthy response to Pakistan’s assistance on China. The negotiation for drying up the pipeline took two months. It was finally accomplished in early November, woundingly for Pakistan, just in time to create a “good atmosphere” for Mrs. Gandhi’s visit. But no sooner did Pakistan agree to negotiate a total arms cut off than foot-dragging began on economic assistance. No new development loans were made throughout 1971. As I said acidly on September 8 at a Senior Review Group meeting, the State Department sold us a dried-up arms pipeline in return for a dried-up economic aid policy.

And none of these manoeuvres addressed the central issue. I was convinced that East Pakistan would become independent Bangladesh relatively soon. But Yahya could not possibly accomplish this before October or November, when the Indians were most likely to attack. Hence, I thought it imperative to make a massive effort to alleviate the refugee problem immediately and to bring our influence to bear in the direction of constitutional rule at as fast a pace as the Pakistani political structure could stand. Constitutional government, in turn, was almost certain to produce at least Bangladesh autonomy and eventually independence. So, we multiplied our aid contribution, providing some $90 million to India and over $150 million for internationally supervised famine relief in East Pakistan to reverse the tide of refugees. We appointed an able senior official o our Agency for International Development, Maurice Williams, to coordinate all US refugee relief.

But it was to no avail. Our actions were outstripped by India’s deliberate acceleration of tensions. On July 24, Kaul again rejected the idea of UN personnel on the Indian side of the border. On August 4, Ambassador Jha rejected suggestions of Under Secretary of State John Irwin that India control the guerrillas operating from its territory. Jha made a new suggestion–that the United States take up an offer of contact with the Bangladesh exiles in Calcutta. When we did so, as will be seen, it was aborted in part because of Indian obstruction.

By courtesy:

The Military Crackdown

The India-Pakistan Crisis of 1971

What prompted Yahya to his reckless step on March 25 is not fully known. No doubt the Bengali population taunted the Pakistani soldiers drawn almost exclusively from the West. Mujib’s version of autonomy seemed indistinguishable from independence. Almost all nations will fight for their unity, even if sentiment in the disaffected area is overwhelmingly for secession. So, it was during our Civil War, with Nigeria toward Biafra, and with the Congo toward Katanga. Pakistan was unique, however, in that the seceding province was separated from West Pakistan by a thousand miles of Indian territory. There was no likelihood that a small military force owing to loyalty to one wing of the country could indefinitely hold down a population of 75 million of the other. Once indigenous Bengali support for a united Pakistan evaporated, the integrity of Pakistan was finished. An independent Bengali state was certain to emerge, even without Indian intervention. The only question was how the change would come about.

We wanted to stay aloof from this if we could, as did Britain. We even received reports of West Pakistani suspicions that we might favour an independent East Pakistan, but neither the British nor we wished to be made scapegoats for the country’s breakup. We had few means to affect the situation. We had, moreover, every incentive to maintain Pakistan’s goodwill. It was our crucial link to Peking; and Pakistan was one of China’s closest allies. We had sent a message in December through Pakistan accepting the principle of an American emissary in Peking. In March and April, the signs were multiplying that a Chinese response was imminent. April was a month of Ping-Pong diplomacy.

In this first stage of the crisis the consensus of the US government was to avoid precipitate action even among those who knew nothing of our China initiative. At a WSAG meeting on March 26, I repeated my own view that the prognosis was for a civil war, leading to independence fairly quickly. A State Department representative noted that Britain was unwilling to engage itself in pressing Pakistan. I told my colleagues:

I talked to the President briefly before lunch. His inclination is the same as everybody else’s. He doesn’t want to do anything. He doesn’t want to be in the position where he can be accused of having encouraged the split-up of Pakistan. He does not favour a very active policy.”

Yet pressures for an active policy began to mount. There was general and justified outrage as during April, reports began to come in of Pakistani atrocities in Bengal. Our Consul General in Dacca was sending cables to Washington urging a public American stand against Pakistani repression; other members of the consulate staff signed a similar message in early April. Secretary Rogers told me he found it ” outrageous” that his diplomats were writing petitions rather than reports. But in a favourite device of subordinates seeking to foreclose their superiors’ options, the cables were deliberately given a low classification and hence wide circulation. Leaks to the Congress and press were inevitable. A Pakistani editor who visited East Pakistan wrote a firsthand account of army killings for the London Sunday Times. Our Ambassador in New Delhi, Kenneth Keating, reported to Washington that he was “deeply shocked at the massacre” and was ” greatly concerned at the United States’ vulnerability to damaging association with a reign of military terror.” He urged that the United States promptly, publicly, and prominently deplore ” this brutality,” privately intervene with Yahya Khan, abrogate our “one-time exception,” and immediately suspend all military deliveries to Pakistan.

We faced a dilemma. The United States could not condone a brutal military repression in which thousands of civilians were killed and from which millions fled to India for safety. There was no doubt about the strong-arm tactics of the Pakistani military. But Pakistan was our sole channel to China; once it was closed off it would take months to make alternative arrangements. The issue hit Washington, moreover, in the midst of another of the cyclic upheavals over Vietnam. A massive campaign of disobedience was planned for May 1. To some of our critics our silence over Pakistan–the reason for which we could not explain–became another symptom of the general moral  insensitivity of their government. They could not accept that that it might be torn between conflicting imperatives; some had a vested interest in undermining their government’s standing on whatever issue came to hand in the belief that this would collapse our effort in Vietnam. The Administration reacted in the same ungenerous spirit; there was some merit to the charge of moral insensitivity. Nixon ordered our Consul General transferred from Dacca; he ridiculed Keating for having been “taken over by the Indians.” a tragic victim of the war in Vietnam was the possibility of rational debate on foreign policy.

The State Department moved on its own to pre-empt the decisions. Ignorant of the China initiative, heavily influenced by its traditional Indian bias, in early April– without a clearance with the White House– the Department moved toward a new arms embargo on Pakistan. It suspended issuance of new licenses for the sale of munitions and renewal of expired licenses; it put a hold on the delivery of items from Defense Department stocks and held in abeyance the “one-time exception” package of 1970. Some $35 million in arms to Pakistan was cut off, leaving some $5 million trickling through the pipeline. (This $5 million became a contentious issue with the Congress in early July). The State Department also began to throttle economic aid to Pakistan, again without White House clearance, by the ingenious device of claiming that our existing programs could no longer be made effective throughout the entire country because of the civil war. My NSC staff expert Hal Saunders wrote me that State Department was moving from a posture of detachment to one of disassociation from the Pakistani government, but “they are not acknowledging to themselves that is what the are doing. The are justifying their move on technical grounds.”

Anyone familiar with Nixon’s attitudes could not doubt that this was contrary to his wishes; those unfamiliar should have checked with the White House. The pre-emption of Presidential prerogatives goes far to explain Nixon’s (and my) attitude later that year, throughout April, my major task was to get control of the government process with two objectives: to preserve the channel to Peking and to preserve the possibility of a political solution in Pakistan. By then, Islamabad was not only a point of contact but also my likely place of departure for China. And signs began to appear that India’s proposed solution to the undoubted burden of millions of Bengali refugees was not so much to enable them to return as to accelerate the disintegration of Pakistan (or at any rate to identify one objective with the other). On March 31, the Indian Parliament unanimously expressed its wholehearted “sympathy and support” for the Bengalis. As early as April 1, I reported to the President that “the Indians seem to be embarking on a course of public diplomatic and covert actions that will increase the already high level of tension in the subcontinent and run the risk of touching off a broader and more serious international crisis.” On April 14, a Bangladesh government in exile was established in Calcutta. By the middle of April we received reports that India was training Bengali refugees to become guerrilla fighters in East Pakistan (the so-called Mukti  Bahini). By the end of April, we learned that India was about to infiltrate the first 2,000 of these guerrillas into East Pakistan.

I considered a policy of restraint correct on the merits, above and beyond the China connection. For better or worse, the strategy of the Nixon Administration on humanitarian questions was not to lay down a challenge to sovereignty that would surely be rejected, but to exert our influence without public confrontation. In retrospect, I believe that we sometimes carried this basically correct approach to pedantic lengths which antagonised potential supporters. In the case of Pakistan, it seemed appropriate because its government was an ally that, we were convinced, was bound soon to learn the futility of its course. We undertook to persuade Yahya Khan to move toward autonomy, advising him as a friend to take steps that he would surely have rejected had we demanded them publicly. As I wrote the President on April 29, the central government “may recognise the need to move toward greater East Pakistani autonomy in order to draw the necessary Bengali cooperation. What we seem to face, therefore, is a period of transition to greater East Pakistan autonomy and, perhaps, eventual independence.” Yet, I noted, India’s policy was bound to work against such a settlement: By training and equipping a relatively small Bengali resistance force, India can help keep active resistance alive and increase the chances of a prolonged guerrilla war. From all indications, the Indians intend to follow such a course.”

Following the customary procedure, I asked the State Department in April to suggest opinions in preparation for a decision by the President as to what our policy should be in light of the unfolding crisis. A broad policy decision would provide the framework for handling the specific economic and military aid issues with Pakistan; it was especially needed in view of the fact that State had already begun moving in its own desired direction. As usual, the Department placed its preferred option between alternatives so absurd that they could not possibly serve as a basis of policy. (One proposal, for example, was all- out support for Yahya. This was neither the White House conviction nor a feasible course of action.) I distilled a recommendation from the range of options that State proposed. To respond to Congressional and public desires I proposed that the President ratify the State Department’s unauthorised action of early April shutting down the military supply pipeline, allowing only some spare parts and no lethal equipment to move. I also urged that economic aid be used as a carrot to induce political concessions, ” to make a serious effort to help Yahya end the war and establish an arrangement that could be transitional to East Pakistan autonomy.”

Nixon approved my recommendations on May 2, and added a handwritten note:” To all hands. Don’t squeeze Yahya at this time. RN.”

But we ran up against three obstacles: the policy of India, our own public debate, and the indiscipline of our bureaucracy.

On May 18– when we were already in the advanced stage of preparing the secret trip to Peking with Islamabad–Mrs. Gandhi warned Pakistan in a public speech that India was “fully prepared to fight if the situation is forced on us.” Indian ambassadors alerted Britain and France that India ” may be forced to act in its national interest” in view of the flood of refugees. By then an estimated 2.8 million. The burden of refugees was indeed monumental; the danger of communal riots could not be dismissed. But as the weeks passed, we began increasingly to suspect that Mrs. Gandhi perceived a larger opportunity. As Pakistan grew more and more isolated internationally, she appeared to seek above all Pakistan’s humiliation, perhaps trying to spread the centrifugal tendencies from East to West Pakistan. When the United States agreed to assume the major cost of refugee relief, India switched to insisting that the refugee problem was insoluble without a political settlement. But India’s terms for a settlement escalated by the week. When the United States offered to alleviate famine in East Pakistan, India– together with many in the United States–demanded that the relief program be run by an international agency. The reason was ostensibly to ensure its fair distribution, but it would also prevent the Pakistan government from gaining credit with its own population.

In May 1971, we learned from sources heretofore reliable that Mrs. Gandhi had ordered plans for a lightning “Israeli-type” attack to take over East Pakistan. And we had hard evidence that India was dispersing aircraft and moving combat troops and armour to the border. Nixon took the reports seriously enough to order on May 23 that if India launched such an attack, US economic aid to India was to be cut off. I assembled the WSAG on May 26 to review our policy in the event of a war.

Around this time we learned that Indian military leaders thought Mrs. Gandhi’s proposal of an attack on East Pakistan was too risky. They feared Chinese intervention, the possibility of other countries’  military aid to Pakistan (especially Iran’s), the uncertainty of resupply of Soviet weapons, and the likelihood that all of Pakistan might have to be occupied to bring the war to a conclusion. The Indian commanders insisted, at a minimum, on waiting until November when weather in the Himalayas would make Chinese intervention more difficult. While Mrs. Gandhi set about systematically to remove these objections and waited for the snows to fall in the mountains, we had a breathing space. (I must stress that most in the United States government did not credit these reports as I did; most senior officials considered an Indian attack improbable.) We used the interval first of all to step up our assistance to the refugees; the original authorisation of $2.5 million in the spring was eventually multiplied a hundredfold to $250 million. At the same time we pressed Pakistan to take steps of political accommodation, urging Yahya first to internationalize the relief effort in East Pakistan, and then come up with a political proposal. And we recommended the replacement of the military governor in the East by a civilian; we succeeded in securing a general amnesty covering all persons not already charged with specific criminal acts.

On May 28 Nixon sent letters t both Mrs. Gandhi and Yahya Khan outlining our policy. The letter to Yahya was not exactly strong; it reflected our need for Yahya as a channel to Peking. But it left no doubt that we favoured a political and not a military solution to the problem of East Pakistan. Nixon acknowledged Yahya’s readiness to accept the internationalization of relief. He encouraged Yahya to continue on the course of “political accommodation“:” I have also noticed with satisfaction your public declaration of amnesty for the refugees and commitment to transfer power to elected representatives. I am confident that you will turn these statements into reality.” Nixon urged restraint in Pakistan’s relations with India; he deemed it “absolutely vital” to restore conditions in East Pakistan ‘conducive to the return of refugees from Indian territory as quickly as possible.”

The President’s parallel letter to Mrs. Gandhi on May 28 stressed our desire to reduce the refugee flow into India and to help ease the burden on India by financial and technical aid. Nixon informed her of our efforts to move Yahya:

We have chosen to work primarily through quiet diplomacy, as we have informed your Ambassador and Foreign Minister. We have been discussing with the Government of Pakistan the importance of achieving a peaceful political accommodation and of restoring conditions under which the refugee flow would stop and the refugees would be able to return to their homes. I feel that these approaches were at least in part behind President Yahya’s press conference on May 24 and especially his public acceptance of international assistance, offer of amnesty to the refugees and commitment to transfer power to elected representatives.

Nixon complimented India on the vitality of its democracy and its economic and social progress, and added a veiled warning against a military solution: “India’s friends would be dismayed were this progress to be interrupted by war.” on June 3 I explained our strategy to Kenneth Keating. I was convinced that East Pakistan would eventually become independent. Our policy was to “give the facts time to assert themselves.”

During June Indian Foreign Minister Swaran Singh arrived in Washington to urge termination of both military and economic aid to Pakistan. India was increasingly presenting us with a Catch-22 dilemma. It claimed that the enormous flow of refugees would sooner or later force India into drastic measures. But at the same time India would do nothing to curb– indeed, it trained, equipped, and encouraged– the guerrillas whose infiltration from Indian territory guaranteed unsettled conditions that would generate more refugees. Despite Yahya’s proclamation of an amnesty, India made the return of refugees to East Pakistan depend upon a political settlement there. But India reserved the right to define what constituted an acceptable political settlement on the sovereign territory of its neighbour. In mid-June Mrs. Gandhi declared that India would not agree to any solution that meant ” the death of Bangladesh”; in other words, India’s condition for staying its hand was the breakup of Pakistan. With evolution to autonomy rejected, refugees encouraged, and their return precluded, India had made a mounting crisis inevitable.

Many in our country saw it differently. Unfortunately, the debate began to take on some of the bitterness and impugning of motives characteristic of the Vietnam debate. And the Administration, which had a case, did not help matters by enveloping itself in silence. Congressman Cornelius Gallagher of New Jersey, Chairman of the House subcommittee concerned with the problem, declared on the floor of the House on June 10 after a visit to Indian refugee camps, that India had shown “almost unbelievable”  restraint in the face of the refugee burden. (This was three weeks after Mrs. Gandhi’s public threat to go to war.) on June 17, the New York Times took the Administration to task, calling our public statement urging restraint on both sides “belated”, our appeal would be fruitless, said the Times, unless we matched word with deed, that is, cut off all American aid to Pakistan until there was a genuine political accommodation in East Pakistan. The Times, too praised Mrs. Gandhi for having shown “remarkable restraint” in the face of the staggering refugee problem.

Then there occurred one of those media events by which small facts become surrogates for larger debates, focussing and in the process distorting the issues. On June 22, the New York Times carried a story that a Pakistani freighter was preparing to sail from New York with a cargo of military equipment for Pakistan, seemingly in violation of the Administration’s officially proclaimed ban. Soon a second ship carrying military items was reported on its way to Pakistan. There was outrage from the press and Congress, and from India. The next day the New York Times charged that the shipments were a “breach of faith” with the American people and Congress and with India and “further” undermined American credibility. Senator Stuart Symington said that it was either ignorance or deliberate deception. State’s announcement of June 24 that Washington was providing an additional $70 million to India for  refugees was drowned out by reports that a third Pakistani freighter had sailed from New York to Karachi with military equipment. It did not still the charges of government duplicity that all the equipment in question had been purchased under licenses issued before the ban and was thus legally out of control; and that the third freighter had sailed four days before the State Department suspension of licenses went into effect. Here was another of the credibility gaps so cherished during the Vietnam period. We could convince no one that we simply had no mechanism to track down licenses already issued, nor that the amount of “seepage” was minuscule and could affect the military balance neither on the subcontinent nor in Bengal. The Washington Post on July 5 could barely contain its outrage: it was

An astonishing and shameful record. . .[which] must be read in the context of the current controversy over the Pentagon Papers, which turns on the public right to know and the government’s right to conceal. Here we have a classic example of how the System really works; hidden from public scrutiny, administration officials have been supplying arms to Pakistan while plainly and persistently telling the public that such supplies were cut off.

The irony was that the “credibility gap” was caused by the State Department, whose precipitate action in the embargo had so angered the White House. The department most in accord with the media and Congressional criticism became, unintentionally, its focus.

By courtesy:

DSCF7703

Two cyclones

The India-Pakistan Crisis of 1971

Ever since it had come into being, Pakistan had sought a sustained legitimacy. No government after the death of the founder of the state had served out its term. Every change had occurred through some sort of coup; military and civilian governments alternated with the military dominant. The year 1970 was expected to see a constitutional government. Elections would finally take place in December. Pakistan’s President Yahya Khan visited Nixon in October during the United Nation’ twenty-fifth anniversary celebrations, when Nixon gave him the message to Chou En-lai. I took the opportunity to ask Yahya what would happen to the powers of the President after the election. Yahya could not have been more confident. He expected a multiplicity of parties to emerge in both West and East Pakistan, which would continually fight each other in each wing of the country and between the two wings; the President would therefore remain the arbiter of Pakistan’s politics.

Before his prediction could be tested a devastating cyclone struck East Pakistan over November 12-13. By most accounts, I wrote Nixon, this was the greatest disaster of the century in terms of destruction of property and human life; over 200,000 were thought to have died. The all-out relief program that Nixon ordered could only touch the surface of the suffering. Recovery efforts were chaotic and ineffective. The opposition charged the Yahya government with gross incompetence and worse. The political storm turned out in the end to be even more destructive than the natural one.

Whether the cyclone crystallised opposition to the central government and enhanced East Pakistan’s sense of grievance and identity, or whether Yahya had misjudged the mood all along, the elections held on December 7, 1970, turned into a plebiscite on Yahya’s handling of the crisis and produced a catastrophe for the military rulers. The Awami League, dedicated to East Pakistan autonomy, won 167 out of 169 seats contested in the East, giving it a majority of the 313 seats in the National Assembly. Its leader, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman (known as Mujib), was thus bound to be an unchallengeable figure in East Pakistan and a powerful influence in the entire country. To heighten the political drama, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, leader of the Pakistan People’s Party, emerged in a comparably dominant position in West Pakistan. While opposed to military rule, Bhutto was an advocate of a strong central government and of a united Pakistan; he fiercely resisted Mujib’s insistence on East Pakistani autonomy and in this he was certain to be supported by the military. (Indeed, he may well have adopted this position in order to become more acceptable to the military.) The Awami League had put forward a six-point program for full provincial autonomy for East Pakistan that left the central government some vague responsibility only in the fields of foreign policy and defense. Each of the two constituent units of Pakistan, it proposed, would have its own currency, keep its own separate account for foreign exchange, raise its own taxes, set its own fiscal policy, and maintaòin its own militia and paramilitary units. Yahya and Bhutto rejected this as tantamount to secession. A stalemate-or crisis-was imminent.

On February 16, 1971, I requested an interagency study of the alternatives should East Pakistan try to make a break; on February 22, I sent my own analysis to the President:

[Mujib and Bhutto] have failed so far to forge even the beginning of an informal consensus on the new constitution. President Yahya remains committed to turning his military government over to the civilian politicians, but maintains that he will not preside over the splitting of Pakistan . . .[Mujib] is now planning to stick with his demands for the virtual autonomy of East Pakistan and if he does not get his way– which is very likely– to declare East Pakistan independence.

Yahya was caught between his reluctance to make common cause with Bhutto and his resistance to the quasi-independence of East Pakistan demanded by Mujib. He postponed the convening of the National Assembly set for early March to give the political leaders more time to sort out their differences, but this move further antagonised the East. Yahya ultimately rescheduled the Assembly for March 25, gambling that the two civilian antagonists, faced with a deadlock that might break up the country, would choose to compromise. In this judgement, too, Yahya proved to be mistaken. Bhutto was undoubtedly the most brilliant man in Pakistan politics; he was also arrogant and strong-willed. Later on, he would preside over the recovery of his dismembered country with statesmanship and courage. In early 1971, he feared that compromise would bring down on him the wrath of the very masses in West Pakistan whose support had swept him to the threshold of power. Mujib, for his part, could not arrest the forces he had unleashed. He was far less inclined to do so than Bhutto, and more prone to believe in his own rhetoric. Like figures in a Greek tragedy, each of these two popular Pakistani leaders refused to let the other cross the threshold beyond which lay power for both of them; they would yield to necessity but not to each other.

As the tension increased, our government reviewed its options. The Senior Review Group met on March 6 to consider the interagency study I had requested on February 16. Our consensus was that Pakistan would not be able to hold the East by force. I made it clear to the agencies that the President would be reluctant to confront Yahya, but that the White House would not object to other countries’ efforts to dissuade him from using force. If Pakistan broke up, it should be the result of its internal dynamics, not of American pressures. All agencies agreed that the United States should not get involved. This was also the policy of Great Britain, which had a much longer historical relationship.

During March we experienced the confusions that mark the onset of most crisis. In a major speech on March 7, Mujib stopped short of a total break with West Pakistan, but he demanded an end to martial law and a return to popular rule, making clear his goal remained the “emancipation” of the East. Yahya announced he was flying to Dacca, capital of East Pakistan to negotiate with Mujib on March 15. Meanwhile, in India in early March, Prime Minister Gandhi scored an enormous victory in the Indian general elections. Until then events in Pakistan had been the internal problems of a friendly country; we might have our view but they were not a foreign policy issue. Busy with the election campaign and its immediate aftermath, Mrs. Gandhi adopted a hands-off policy. As late as the middle of March, the permanent head of the Indian Foreign Office, T.N. Kaul, told our ambassador in New Delhi, Kenneth Keating, that India wanted Pakistan to remain united. On March 17, the Indian Ambassador in Washington, the skilful L.K. Jha, spoke in the same sense to me. Neither gave the slightest indication that India would consider the troubles in neighbouring East Pakistan as affecting its own vital interests.

But sometimes the nerves of public figures snap. Incapable of abiding events, they seek to force the pace and lose their balance. So, it was that Yahya Khan, with less than 40,000 troops, decided to establish military rule over the 75 million people of East Pakistan, to suppress the Awami League, and to arrest Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. The crisis in Pakistan then became international.

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