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Newly declassified WH tapes reveal ex-US president Nixon’s hatred towards Indians

Team Udayavani, Sep 5, 2020, 12:02 PM IST

New York: Newly declassified White House tapes disclose former US president Richard Nixon speaking disparagingly about Indians and reveal the bigotry he and his national security adviser Henry Kissinger held that influenced US policy toward India and South Asia under his presidency.

“As Americans grapple with problems of racism and power, a newly declassified trove of White House tapes provides startling evidence of the bigotry voiced by President Richard M. Nixon and Henry Kissinger, his national security adviser,” Gary Bass, professor at Princeton, wrote in an opinion piece ‘The Terrible Cost of Presidential Racism’ in The New York Times.

“The full content of these tapes reveal how U.S. policy toward South Asia under Mr. Nixon was influenced by his hatred of, and sexual repulsion toward, Indians,” Bass, author of ‘The Blood Telegram: Nixon, Kissinger and a Forgotten Genocide’, writes.

Richard Nixon, a Republican, was the 37th President of the United States, serving from 1969 until 1974. Bass says that the declassified White House tapes reveal a “stunning” conversation between Nixon, Kissinger and the then White House chief of staff H.R. Haldeman in the Oval Office in June 1971 in which Nixon asserts in a “venomous tone” that Indian women are “undoubtedly the most unattractive women in the world.”

Nixon also calls Indians “most sexless”, “nothing” and “pathetic”, according to the tapes.

“On Nov. 4, 1971, during a private break from a contentious White House summit with Prime Minister Indira Gandhi of India — a rare woman leader at the time — the president harangued Mr. Kissinger about his sexual disgust at Indians,” Bass writes.

Referring to Indians, Nixon says to Kissinger “To me, they turn me off. How the hell do they turn other people on, Henry? Tell me.” Bass writes that while Kissinger’s response is inaudible in the tapes, “it did not discourage the president from his theme.”

In November 1971, in the middle of a discussion about India-Pakistan tensions with Kissinger and Secretary of State William Rogers, after Rogers mentioned reprimanding Gandhi, the president blurted, “I don’t know how they reproduce!”

Bass writes in the NYT piece that while Kissinger has portrayed himself as being above the racism of the Nixon White House, the tapes show “him joining in the bigotry, though the tapes cannot determine whether he truly shared the president’s prejudices or was just pandering to him.”

For instance, on June 3, 1971, Kissinger was “indignant” at the Indians as the country sheltered millions of Bengali refugees who had fled the Pakistan Army. Kissinger blamed the Indians for causing the refugee flow and then condemned Indians as a whole, as he said, “They are a scavenging people.”

Nixon had even been furious with his ambassador to India Kenneth Keating, who two days earlier had confronted Nixon and Kissinger in the Oval Office, calling Pakistan’s crackdown “almost entirely a matter of genocide.”  Bass says that Nixon and Kissinger had “staunchly supported” the military regime in Pakistan as it killed hundreds of thousands of Bengalis, with 10 million refugees fleeing into neighbouring India.

Voicing prejudices about Pakistanis, Kissinger had in August 1971 told Nixon that “the Pakistanis are fine people, but they are primitive in their mental structure.” He added, “They just don’t have the subtlety of the Indians.”

The Nixon archivists released a few unbleeped tapes in May 2018, July 2019 and this May “after considerable wrangling”.

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