By Anjan Roy
Henry Kissinger, former US secretary of state, who died on November 30 at 100, was so infuriated by Indira Gandhi pressing ahead with creation of Bangladesh and seeing his games foiled and defeated by an impoverished country, had called the “Indian bastards” in private, expressing his frustration. In his life, Henry Kissinger had an immense relevance for India and the sub-continent.
In the 1970s, Pakistan’s president Yahya Khan was secretly working as a conduit between America and China to establish diplomatic relations and Kissinger sought it would be imprudent to go against the Pakistani leader and condemn his atrocious killing of Bengalis in East Pakistan.
Even in the face of a collective letter from the US consul general in Dacca at that time about the brutal killings of civilians, and a cacophony of voices against the Pakistani army in the State Department headquarters, Kissinger’s fetish for secrecy in diplomacy kept him and the US from uttering any public castigation.
In his strategic vision, Kissinger believed that the confrontation between India and Pakistan was in effect the clash between US and Soviet Union and in the grand strategic calculation it would be foolhardy to give precedence to moral concerns over realism in conducting global games. It later became clear that all Kissinger’s brilliant construction of super power confrontation between US and Soviet Union were found to be erroneous.
As the high priest of Western style diplomacy, his views and moves had attracted bitter controversy ad opposition. He had been involved in the decision to bomb Cambodia. It was so severe that as a repercussion the country had witnessed the rise of the Khmer Rouge, which had embarked on a murderous spree for years. Kissinger had supported a dictatorship and its heavy handed treatment to people in Chile.
He had believed in power and projection of power as a panacea for diplomatic crises. His view of global diplomacy was anchored in the nineteenth century concept of “balance of power” which had set all diplomacy in Europe.
Kissinger’s presiding deity was Metternich, the German foreign mister in the aftermath of Napoleonic wars. He had tried to impose that view of diplomacy on a changed world after second war. It often led to ridiculous results and use of force, as during the Vietnam Wars. He had consistently ignored human rights concerns in Soviet Union, just for the sake of preserving global balance of power between America and Russia of the Cold War Era.
Yet the riddle is that Henry Kissinger won the Nobel Peace Prize for bringing the Vietnam War to a close, along with the Vietnamese president, , which the latter refused on the ground that peace had not yet been in place between the two. The decision to award him this highest honour of the Nobel Foundation had appeared so outrageous to two members of the award committee that they had resigned in protest.
No wonder, before the news of Kissinger’s death could even be digested, the rock music group, Rolling Stone, had come out with a commemorative number, his obituary from the artistes, under the headline “Henry Kissinger, War Criminal Beloved by America’s Ruling Class, Finally Dies”. Digital age high priest of fast news, the left-leaning Huffington Post has splashed “The Beltway Butcher” over a photo of him on its home page.
The irony is that in his early life. Kissinger had faced discrimination and threat of violence all the time that he should have been a protagonist of tolerance and peace. His world view had on the contrary, ominously concentrated on secrecy and use of force.
Kissinger born in 1923 in the small German town of Furth in Bavaria as Heinz. By the time he was fifteen, it was time for the family to leave. Young Kissinger had endured a life of severe discrimination as a Jew in an increasingly anti-Semitic country.
From the end of First War Germany had witnessed rising anti-Semitism and Jews were made to put up with multiple kinds of intolerance and discrimination. As a young boy he was fond of the game of football. But as a jew he could not attend a football match of his city of birth.
He had later recalled, half his classmates in school in Germany were dead by the time the war had ended and so also no less than 13 of his close kins. The discrimination and constant threat of violence against the Jews would have clouded his entire outlook.
The apogee of his diplomatic career was when he could secretly work out a deal for rapprochement between America and China. He had secretly arranged the meeting between Mao Tse Tung and Richard Nixon. In preparation of that, Henry Kissinger had met Mao Tse Tung in the latter’s messy study.
Kissinger’s obsession with secrecy was such that he had not even taken the then US secretary of state Rogers for that first meeting. His life in public policy in US government had abruptly come to a halt with the ignominious exit of President Nixon so to say. Although he had carried on for short while with Nixon’s successor, the chemistry had not worked.
Kissinger had continued with his intellectual pursuits — teaching at Harvard and writing on international affairs. It was only recently in his long interview with the London-based magazine, The Economist, he had seen merit in what his bete noire of earlier years, India, was doing. He appreciated foreign secretary, Jaishankar’s stance on various issues. Meeting the Chinese President Xi Jinping in his personal capacity in Beijing some months back was his last major international interaction. A real maverick from every aspect, he will be remembered for his originality, erudition as also his acts which led to the biggest bloodbath in a large number of countries in the last century. (IPA Service)