Richard Nixon saw American empathy for India as physiological disorder

Oct 21 2013, 15:44 IST
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There was a mutual loathing between former US President Richard Nixon and late Indian PM Indira Gandhi, says a book. There was a mutual loathing between former US President Richard Nixon and late Indian PM Indira Gandhi, says a book.
SummaryFormer US President scorned a 'phobia' among some Americans that 'everything India does is good'.

Former US President Richard Nixon was baffled and annoyed by Americans' sympathies for India, which he described as a "physiological disorder", says a new book based on declassified documents.

He scorned a "phobia" among some Americans that "everything India does is good, and everything Pakistan does is bad", and once told the military leader of Pakistan (Yahya Khan), "There is a psychosis in this country about India," writes Princeton University professor Gary J Bass in "The Blood Telegram: India's Secret War in East Pakistan."

The book, published by Random House India, is a riveting history of the Pakistani army's crackdown on the then East Pakistan (today's independent Bangladesh), killing thousands of people and sending ten million refugees fleeing into India.

It describes how Nixon and his National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger supported Pakistan's military dictatorship. According to Bass, "The Americans who most liked India tended to be the ones that Nixon could not stand. India was widely seen as a State Department favourite, irritating the president."

"I don't like the Indians," the author quotes Nixon as saying at the height of the Bengali crisis.

Bass says beyond his prejudices, he had reason piled upon reason for this "distaste" for India and Indians.

"The most basic was the Cold War: presidents of the US since Harry Truman had been frustrated by India's policy of nonalignment, which Nixon, much like his predecessors, viewed as Nehruvian posturing. India was on suspiciously good terms with the Soviet Union," the book says.

Another reason was realpolitik. "Some Americans romanticised India's democracy but not Nixon. He was unimpressed with the world's largest republic, believing to the end of his days that the US should base its foreign policy on what a country did outside its borders, not on whether it treated its people decently at home," the author says.

He described Americans' popular sympathies for India as a "psychological disorder", he says.

On top of that, Bass says, there was a mutual loathing between Nixon and Indira Gandhi. He had not cared for Jawaharal Nehru, either, but she had an extraordinary ability to get under his skin.

"Back in 1967, while Nixon was out of power and planning his way back, he had met again with Gandhi on a visit to Delhi. But when he called on her at her house, she had seemed conspicuously bored, despite the short duration of their talk.

"After about 20 minutes of strained chat, she asked one of her

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