New Delhi: A set of newly declassified tapes from the White House reveal the stark hostility former US President Richard Nixon had towards India and Indians. Nixon referred to Indians as the “most sexless” and “pathetic”, and called Indian women the “most unattractive women in the world” during a meeting with senior officials at the Oval Office on June 17, 1971, reports say.
The tapes were recently declassified and released in batches up to May this year after Gary J Bass of Princeton University filed a legal request for their declassification. The tapes were reported by Bass in an opinion piece in The New York Times published on Friday.
Nixon’s antipathy towards Indians was also fanned by Henry Kissinger, the National Security Adviser during that time, who also determined US policy towards New Delhi in the early 1970s, Indian Express reported. Richard Nixon, a Republican, was the 37th President of the United States, serving from 1969 until 1974.
Kissinger referred to Indians as “superb flatterers” whose “great skill” was to “suck up to people in key positions”. The conversation, which was part of a meeting held between 5:15 pm and 6:10 pm on June 17, 1971 was recorded by Oval Office taping system, and it appears as Conversation 525-001 of the White House Tapes.
Bass says that the declassified White House tapes reveal a ‘stunning’ conversation between Nixon, Kissinger and the then White House chief of staff HR 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.
The tapes reveal the personal racism of Nixon and his prejudice towards Indians reflecting his attitudes towards international events and actors. It also makes it evident how Nixon had hostility towards India, while having a soft corner for Pakistan that led him to look away from the atrocities of Pakistani army against Bengali people in the East Pakistan (now Bangladesh).
During the meeting towards the 50th minute of the 54-minute, 42-second tape, Nixon goes on to say, “Undoubtedly the most unattractive women in the world are the Indian women. Undoubtedly.” “The most sexless, nothing, these people. I mean, people say, what about the Black Africans? Well, you can see something, the vitality there, I mean they have a little animal-like charm, but God, those Indians, ack, pathetic. Uch,” Nixon adds, followed by laughter from the attendees, a report in the Indian Express stated.
“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,” Bass wrote in the opinion piece titled ‘The Terrible Cost of Presidential Racism’.
Bass had filed a legal request for the declassification review with the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum in December 2012. Nixon library had released a few unbleeped tapes in May 2018 and July 2019, then 28 more in batches from October 2019 to May 2020.
Gary J Bass is a professor of politics and international affairs at Princeton University and had authored a book in 2013, “The Blood Telegram: Nixon, Kissinger, and a Forgotten Genocide” which details the attitude and actions of Nixon administration. Nixon’s hostility towards India comes from the latter’s policy of non-alignment and “suspiciously good terms with the Soviet Union”, Bass said while speaking to Indian Express.
“Nixon’s anti-Indian leanings had been reinforced when John F Kennedy took a warmly pro-India line. On top of that, there was a mutual loathing between Nixon and Indira Gandhi,” Bass wrote in his book. He also mention that finally there was the friendship between Nixon and Pakistan’s then President General Agha Muhammad Yahya Khan, who was acting as his go-between with China.