For my blog post today on Stephen Ambrose’s Nixon: The Triumph of a Politician, I’ll highlight something that Ambrose says on page 483 about President Richard Nixon’s relationship with Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi:
“Seldom in the annals of diplomacy have two more mismatched leaders attempted to negotiate a peaceful settlement. She was supercilious and condescending and pacifist; he was sullen and suspicious and contemptuous.”
I doubt that Nixon disliked Indira Gandhi solely because she was a strong woman. Nixon, after all, appeared to have a good relationship with Golda Meier of Israel, who was herself a strong woman. There were probably a variety of factors behind Nixon disliking Indira Gandhi but liking Golda Meier: agreement on issues, whether Nixon felt that the woman in question treated him with respect, etc.
I wrote a post that talked about the India-East Pakistan-West Pakistan crisis, which you can find here. My post summarizes liberal Jerry Voorhis’ stinging critique of Nixon’s policy in that situation, as well as Nixon’s own account of the event in his memoirs.
In terms of Ambrose’s portrayal of Nixon’s response to the crisis, Ambrose is quite negative. Ambrose essentially portrays Nixon and Henry Kissinger of having a distorted view of the situation. Nixon regarded India as an aggressor against West Pakistan, when actually West Pakistan struck India first. Nixon continued the supply of aid to the oppressive leader of West Pakistan because Nixon thought that this would provide him (Nixon) with a link to Red China, since Pakistan was close with Red China. But Ambrose disagrees with that for the reason that the United States already was in communication with Red China, and so (according to Ambrose, apparently) Nixon didn’t need West Pakistan as his China link. Moreover, on page 486, Ambrose states: “Nixon never saw the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971 as a regional conflict caused by local conditions; to him, it was a global struggle between the superpowers. It was almost as if it had to be that way for Nixon for him to justify his actions to himself.”