Thursday, June 23, 2005

Rewind to 1971: 'Indians are bastards anyway'

Indians are "a slippery, treacherous people", said president Richard Nixon. "The Indians are bastards anyway. They are the most aggressive goddamn people around," echoed his assistant for national security affairs, Henry Kissinger. The setting: a White House meeting on July 16, 1971, during the run-up to the India-Pakistan war which ultimately led to the birth of Bangladesh, erstwhile East Pakistan. The US State Department recently declassified some of the Nixon White House tapes and secret documents that bring to light the way in which the Nixon administration went about the Bangladesh saga, reflecting the potential of mindsets and personal equations taking precedence over ground realities in White House decisionmaking. In 1971, some 3 million people are estimated to have been killed in the genocide unleashed by Pakistan's military government on East Pakistan, leading to a rush of refugees into India, drawing India into a swift and decisive war that eventually forced Pakistan's hand. But all along, the Nixon administration sided with the military establishment of Pakistan over democratic India because of Nixon's "special relationship" with Pakistan's handsome military dictator, General Yahya Khan, and his uncontrolled revulsion at the "old witch" Indira Gandhi, India's then prime minister.

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