• Saturday, February 24, 2024

HEADLINE STORY

Kissinger, who strongly disliked Indira Gandhi, batted for robust US ties with Modi’s India

When Modi was in the US on an official state visit in June this year, an ailing Kissinger reached the state department in a wheelchair to listen to the Indian leader’s address.

(L-R) Henry Kissinger (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images) and Indian prime minister Narendra Modi

By: Shubham Ghosh

HENRY Kissinger, known for his disdain for India’s leadership in the 1970s under Indira Gandhi, has died at the age of 100, but the well-known American statesman and former secretary of state had been advocating stronger US-India ties for the last one decade under prime minister Narendra Modi.

Considered the architect of the US-China relationship since the early 70s, Kissinger died at his home in Connecticut on Wednesday (29). His consulting firm, Kissinger Associates, did not provide a cause of his death.

Read: Henry Kissinger, US diplomat who influenced Cold War era, dies at 100

After Modi became the prime minister in 2014, Kissinger, also the former US national security adviser (NSA), has been advocating strong ties with India. In fact, many say, over the past few years he has become a great fan of the Indian leader.

When Modi was in the US on an official state visit in June this year, Kissinger despite not keeping good health, travelled to Washington to listen to the former’s address at the luncheon at the state department jointly hosted by vice president Kamala Harris and secretary of state Antony Blinken.

Henry Kissinger with former Indian prime minister Indira Gandhi
Former US secretary of state Henry Kissinger with former Indian prime minister Indira Gandhi in New Delhi on October 28, 1974. (Photo by -/PUNJAB/AFP via Getty Images)

Kissinger was brought in a wheelchair to the historic Benjamin Franklin Room on the seventh floor of the Foggy Bottom headquarters of the state department. He was greeted at the elevator by the US ambassador to India, Eric Garcetti.

During the luncheon, the elderly American statesman, whose influence on American national security and foreign policy is seen as immense, patiently listened to the speech of the prime minister and had an interaction with him.

Kissinger also had a meeting with Modi during his visit to New Delhi in October 2019 when the Indian leader had met a number of top world leaders on his country’s efforts to become a $5 trillion (£3.95 trillion) economy.

In recent years, Kissinger made his views known to the public on India when he made a fireside appearance in June 2018 along with John Chambers of the US India Strategic and Partnership Forum (USISPF) on the occasion of the organisation’s first anniversary. The fireside chat was closed to the press, but those who attended it recollect how strongly he batted for the India-US relationship.

“When I think about India, I admire their strategy,” Kissinger said during a rare appearance in Washington to attend the first annual leadership summit of the USISPF in June 2018.

His ties with India in the 1970s when he was in the administration both as the NSA and secretary of state had soured, but before he turned to China, his first preference was India.

It was at his advice that the US Chambers of Commerce in the 70s established the US India Business Council (USIBC).

As per archival diplomatic conversations, as early as 1972 he had advocated for India and Japan to be the permanent member of the UN Security Council.

Historians say that both Kissinger and then president Richard Nixon could not have a healthy relationship with the then-Indian prime minister Indira Gandhi and they turned their attention to China. Rest is history, many say.

After the end of the Cold War, and the emergence of India as a strong power, his views on India had changed and for successive administrations, Kissinger has been advocating strong ties with India. Prime Minister Modi has had a few meetings with him during his trip to the US.

Speaking at another USISPF event, Kissinger, then 96, said the Bangladesh crisis pushed the two countries to the “edge of confrontations”.

“India was at the beginning of a historic evolution and not all of the problems that concerned were of equal importance to India. India was heavily involved with its own evolution and the policy of neutrality,” he then said in New Delhi.

“If you look at the world, there are upheavals in almost every part of the world and you cannot necessarily develop a general concept for each of them but you can work together on the essentials of peace and progress. Then I would say no two countries now are better situated to evolve their friendship,” Kissinger said.

A day after Dhaka was liberated on December 16, 1971, Nixon was told by Kissinger that he had “saved West Pakistan,” according to confidential papers since declassified by the US State Department.

Kissinger told then-President Gerald Ford after his meeting with Indira Gandhi in October 1974, a few months after India’s first nuclear test, that she had felt an “almost pathological need” to criticise the US but at the same time desired an improvement in Indo-US relations on a “more equal” basis after Washington recognised India as an “important country in the world”.

He once acknowledged that the then United States Republican administration had always wished it had a man as ‘strong’ as Gandhi, but in the same breath, Kissinger said Gandhi did not have a personality that appealed at ‘first blush’ to Americans.

On a visit to Afghanistan and in a meeting with Mohammad Daoud, the then head of state and prime minister, Kissinger shared a number of views including those on India, non-alignment and the personality of Gandhi.

“I think it’s correct to say Mrs. Gandhi does not have a personality that appeals at first blush to Americans. Maybe not even at a second blush. There have even been cases of people who have resisted her a third time,” Kissinger added when asked by Daoud to characterise relations between India and the United States.

“Our relations with India are friendly and aloof. It’s a fortunate thing the Indians are pacifists, otherwise, their neighbours would be worried. The first time we were in India, they told me that Kabul belonged to India too,” Kissinger has been recorded as having said according to a White House Memo.

Kissinger received a Nobel Peace Prize in 1973 for helping arrange the end of US military involvement in the disastrous Vietnam War. He is also credited with secret diplomacy that helped President Nixon open communist China to the United States and the West, highlighted by Nixon’s visit to Beijing in 1972.

(With PTI inputs)

Related Stories

Loading