Forty years after Bangladesh’s liberation from Pakistan, former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger said while creation of Bangladesh was Indian national objective, it was essential for the US to preserve West Pakistan.
Addressing the opening gala dinner keynote address at India Today Conclave on Friday, the veteran diplomat denied that the US had made a secret pact with India to prevent an attack on West Pakistan, India Today reported.
After the 1971 war which saw the break up of Pakistan and creation of Bangladesh, the US asked India not to strike against West Pakistan, the report added.
The war broke out just when the US was conducting negotiations with China through Pakistan, said Kissinger who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1973 jointly with Vietnamese revolutionary Le Duc Tho for their efforts in negotiating peace in Vietnam and an end to the Vietnam War.
“India and the former Soviet Union had made a near-alliance around this time. It was in the national interest of the US to preserve West Pakistan,” he said.
The Indian army moved into East Pakistan on December 4, 1971. The Indian offensive led to the creation of Bangladesh. The US responded with gunboat diplomacy. President Nixon sent the Seventh Fleet led by the nuclear powered aircraft carrier USS Enterprise into the Bay of Bengal.
“Each side did what it had to do. Each acted on its own national interest which clashed for a brief moment,” Kissinger said.
Kissinger also laid another Cold War ghost to rest. White House tapes of the Nixon presidency declassified in 2005 reveal the former Secretary of state used unparliamentary language while referring to Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, the India Today report said.
“I was under pressure and made those comments in the heat of the moment. People took those remarks out of context,” Kissinger said, adding that he had the highest regard for Indira Gandhi.
The veteran statesman who turns 90 next year, spoke on ‘the making of an Asian century’ during period when Israel has threatened to attack Iran destabilising the Middle East, the US is embroiled in the Afghan quagmire and India wearily watches the rise of China.
Kissinger, the architect of President Nixon's historic visit to China in 1972, had a word of advice for India. It would not be in India’s national interests to allow a dominant power or a transnational power that would intrude into its sphere of influence: from Singapore to East Africa.
He also said that China would treat India with respect and that India, China and the US would have to work together to balance China’s internal forces that had the potential to destabilize it.
Dr Kissinger signed off with his interpretation of the art of foreign policy: "to have a vision of the future and the courage to pursue it".