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  Opinion   Edit  01 Dec 2023  AA Edit | Love him or hate him, Kissinger shaped history

AA Edit | Love him or hate him, Kissinger shaped history

THE ASIAN AGE.
Published : Dec 2, 2023, 12:03 am IST
Updated : Dec 2, 2023, 12:03 am IST

Kissinger’s policies were thought of as instrumental in the genocide carried out in erstwhile East Pakistan

Former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. (Photo by Gabriel DUVAL / AFP)
 Former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. (Photo by Gabriel DUVAL / AFP)

Former US secretary of state and national security adviser Henry Kissinger, one of the most dominant and controversial foreign policy figures of the 20th century, just made it past the century mark. While that could be the success story of his life span, he missed becoming US President because he was born abroad (in Furth, Bavaria) and so ineligible for the coveted White House job, but he was at once the repository of sky-high praise as well as withering scorn.

Many contributed to changing the course of history of their nations and the world, from the apostle of peace Mahatma Gandhi to the biggest war criminal Adolf Hitler, but few may have changed the history of the world to the extent that the foreign policy guru did with his diplomatic initiatives, bloody interventions and sabre-wielding influences after the end of World War II.

Nothing personified the paradox of love and hate in all their ambiguities more than Kissinger being given the Nobel Peace Prize. No one could have captured in prose those controversial Nobel moments better than the musician Tom Lehrer who said, “Political satire became obsolete when Henry Kissinger was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.”

For the maven who got Cambodia bombed to force a desired outcome to the Vietnam War, which the US wanted to somehow get out of, the peace Nobel was illustrative of dramatic irony with fellow laureate Le Duc Tho of North Vietnam declining the prize and two committee members resigning.

India will have much less cause to remember Kissinger as fondly as North America may do, though he did make strenuous attempts to get over the audio leak of his and his hawkish, mercurial President Richard Nixon’s expletives in deeply derogatory comments in a conversation on Indians, their lot in those times and even their sexuality as Indira Gandhi visited Nixon and was kept waiting for an audience.

Kissinger’s policies were thought of as instrumental in the genocide carried out in erstwhile East Pakistan as the US needed Pakistan as a close ally then to initiate the ping pong diplomacy with the Middle Kingdom to break the Communist Soviet Russia-China tango. Thanks to Indira Gandhi’s resolve, India stood up to the US as it sent a fleet east while India liberated Bangladesh. But the US-China ties his actions promoted were to prove disastrous for Indians and Bangladeshis.

The foreign affairs guru did try to make amends later in espousing the Indian cause, promoting the country as an ally, and even met with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on one of his trips to Washington. In Mr Donald Trump’s time as President, Kissinger did his bit with his clout as shadow statesman to further the emerging warmer ties with India.

As the architect of the US diplomatic opening with China, the country did remain an obsession for him. He met the Chinese President Xi Jinping when he was well into his 90s but still boasting the intellectual force that he had gathered as a Harvard academic.

Having initiated landmark US-Soviet arms control talks and helped start better ties among Israel and its Arab neighbours, he had indeed contributed to peace. It is said of him that while the critics focus only on the bad things, Kissinger himself only wanted to focus on the good things. History alone can throw an insightful light on the legacy of Heinz Alfred Kissinger.

Tags: aa edit, henry kissinger, richard nixon