• Let me tell you a factoid. When George Bush was getting his MBA at Harvard, my guest today, Henry Kissinger, was already Secretary of State. He is the genuine original in the time of instant media pundits. So who better than him to tell what India should expect from Bush in his second term?I think the first term of the Presidency was very positive towards India and you can expect in the second term even closer relations. President Bush had an excellent meeting with the Prime Minister when they met at the United Nations and I think they will continue to intensify their relationship. I think it will be an extremely positive relationship.
• But how will Bush in his second term be different from Bush in the first term? Will there be more of the same? Or will there be changes?
Bush won the election so he is not obliged to change his policy. The second term will, I think, be devoted to actual construction...and to begin work on an international order that gives other countries a sense of participation, and in that we look to India as a special partner.
• Dr Kissinger, if you were sent to India today, in November 2004, on an assignment by President Bush and you were to write a despatch back to him, notes from New Delhi, what would your first para be like?
It would be the enormous change in India since I first was here in 1962. There is an atmosphere of positive achievement, of entering India into the international global system and of a sense of cooperation between the United States and India and between India and its neighbours. So this is the most positive atmosphere I’ve found in India.
• In 40 years?
In 40 years.
• And if I can remind you of that visit in 1962, you had a press conference in Delhi where you said two things. One you said—when asked a question on Kashmir—you said I haven’t studied the issue enough to answer, and second you said you didn’t think Pakistan would be so foolish as to engage with China.
I was certainly wrong on the second point.
• So people can be more foolish than you expect them to be?
Well, I think that Pakistan for its own reasons saw that close relations with China were in its national interest. I did not expect it in 1962.
• Come to think of it, nobody expected in 1962 what would happen between the US and China as well.
• But 40 years hence, do you see your view of India as having evolved in a logical direction, or do you reflect back and say there have been surprises,? I know it’s a view that’s changed for the better.
I have always believed that there were no real conflicting interests between India and the United States. But in a Cold War world, India had to look at its relations with the Soviet Union and it had to worry about conflicts the United States might be engaged in that did not affect India directly. And India was then still very much more dedicated to economic planning...So in these 40 years, I of course have learnt something. When I first came to India, I did not know any Indian personalities. I knew a few students at Harvard. Now I’ve gotten to know so many Indian friends that when I come here, my problem is to fit them all in...and that is humanly very important to me. And secondly, the role of India in the world has changed tremendously. In those days India wanted to stay out of the world. Now India knows it is tied into the world by the economy and by international politics.
• And by its own security interests.
And by its own security interests. Good relations between countries develop when they both pursue their own interest. Neither country should think they’re doing a favour to the other. They are pursuing their own interests and they make their interests parallel, and so they serve the peoples of both countries.
• In fact, that’s one of the arguments we’ve had when people say that Stephen Solarz is pro-India or Henry Kissinger was not pro-India but is now pro-India. We try to argue, I try to argue that they are being pro-America.
I happen to like India and I’m impressed by...things in India and Indian friends. But the fact is, at the end of the day, I have to think of America. I would like to think that American interests are broad enough to include Indian interests, and I hope that Indian interests are the same. But I think you’re quite right in what you say.
• So you would say nations follow sensible foreign policy when they work in their own national interest.
No, well...they should pursue their own national interest but they should perceive their national interest in a generous and general way, because no nation can impose its national interest on all the others. You have peace in the world if the major countries believe that the world as it exists also reflects their personal, their own interest. If a country feels that it’s not being included, it has no reason to sustain it.
• Another great Kissingerism is that American foreign policy has three strains—the idealistic one, the pragmatic one and the legalistic one. Idealistic meaning this is right and this is wrong, this is evil and this is good. Pragmatic means let’s solve this problem and legalistic is purely sort of...legalistic.
No matter how pragmatic you are, you need some fundamental convictions...You need an element of idealism because the tough decisions in foreign policy are all something like 51:49. They’re very close and if you don’t have any conviction...
• Like the US elections these days.
Well, that election actually was a fairly decisive election. More people voted for President Bush than had ever voted before, among the biggest participation we’ve had in an election since 1968. So it was nearly three and a half million votes.
• Dr Kissinger, to go back to the question of idealism versus prag-matism, how would you then define America’s Iraq policy? It certainly doesn’t pass the test of legality.
I don’t accept the definition of the Secretary General of what is legal, and nor has India in its history.
• 55 years, yes.
If you look at the 55 years of the wars India has engaged in, I don’t re-call they ever went to the Security Council for permission. So I think that’s a very restrictive definition.
• That’s a mischievous smile!
The United States faced a unique problem. It is dealing with a world in which private groups can pose overwhelming dangers and that they are operating from the base of other countries. You face another aspect that other countries can support this psychologically even if they were not directly involved. So you have in Iraq a country that had 17 times violated a ceasefire with the United States, that had the largest army in the area, that was working on weapons of mass destruction and therefore its military capacity represented a tremendous threat to the United States. Now how to build up a new Iraq, that is a very difficult problem and in which I would like to see, on the political and economic side, America learning from other countries that have experience in this.
• And what can America learn from India in that area?
India has experience in multi-ethnicity and India understands the problem of development from its own experience and India is directly affected by what the outcome in Iraq is. So I hope and I know there will be a dialogue on what the best means is to move from here to a democratic, progressive country that is building its own society and doesn’t threaten its neighbours.
• We Indians believe we can teach the world. I remember you once obviously were irritated. You said Mrs Gandhi came with this air of hereditary moral authority and you also said that Indian foreign policy has mastered the art of playing on the West’s guilt conscience. It’s not the same West anymore.
True, India has had some extraordinarily able leaders that very well understood the psychology of the people they were dealing with, and the Indian leaders were men and women of tremendous conviction. So it was natural for them to express their conviction.
• When you come to India, do you still find Indians lecture you?
Less so. I have said that on contemporary issues it is sometimes easier to talk to Indians than some European countries...I don’t want to mention...
• Because you find that in a room full of European intellectuals, which is drowned in smoke from cigars and cigarettes, they rave and rant about GM foods and America.
That’s a good point.
• So I don’t know whether Indian hypocrisy has become less or Europeans have left us behind.
India has entered the contemporary global world and the Europeans are in the funny position that they originated the idea of the state and now they’re giving up the idea of the national state. But the European state doesn’t really exist yet. So they are caught between their past and their future and India has been building its state since 1947 and it behaves like a state does.
• And between the past and the future is a present which is anti-Americanism.
It’s sort of a way to rally opinion, but I hope one of the achievements of the second Bush term will be to improve relations. But when we say Europe, we should say we’re talking mostly about France and Germany.
• But if anti-Americanism is the new fashionable ideology, how does America cope with it?
I don’t think we can make popularity the guiding principle of our foreign policy. We should respect the opinions of others, we should have a dialogue, but some of that anti-Americanism is done for domestic reasons and I believe also that as we extend our diplomatic dialogue, the anti-Americanism will diminish.
• Because America has a problem. In the earlier world, anti-Americanism in half the word was fine. But this is a globalised world, there’s only one superpower, America cannot be so unpopular everywhere.
Look...what are we talking about when we say America is unpopular? We talk with intensity of some continental European countries. You would know better than I would that America is unpopular in India. I’ve received more criticism about America on earlier visits than on this visit. I don’t think we are unpopular here...
• But there was a certain Kerry groundswell here. If you held an election here, he would have won.
But partly because they’re influenced to some extent by the American media, the European media.
• You see this distance between what the Americans think is good for them and what the rest of the world thinks is good for America.
In the long run, we cannot say what is good for us is irrelevant to anybody else. In the long run, we have to work for an international system in which most countries feel that they participated and that they shared in it. So to the extent that we are too much focused on ourselves, that is something we need to correct.
• You talked about the influence of the American media. There was this very strong view this time in, sort of, the liberal America, the media, the arts, cinema, rock stars...this kind of a line-up we’ve never seen before.
But on the other hand, to the average American, to the Americans who voted for Bush, which was after all a majority, these rock stars represented side of life that they don’t appreciate. And they think that they are being manipulated. That movie by Michael Moore...
• ...was very popular in India.
Well it was popular among people who were already convinced in America. But it was not persuasive for people who were not already committed. I didn’t see it so I can’t really comment on it.
• You mean all these rock stars coming together, Whoopi Goldberg making fun of Bush, it maybe ended up helping Bush?
I think it helped. To describe Bush as if he were not very intelligent, as if he was reading while New York was being bombed...when you suddenly get information like this and the White House press is in the room, it would be crazy to jump up and start shouting orders. I think it is most important to give an impression of calm. What he had done in detail, it’s senseless to discuss that today. So I think that Bush should show considerable conciliation towards his opponents. But I think his opponents should give him some opening to deal with it and not simply continue this debate indefinitely.
• Dr Kissinger, when you talked about three aspects of foreign policy—idealism, pragmatism and legalism—you said what is not present in America is a geo-political underpinning to foreign policy.
Yes, because we haven’t had to do it. For the greatest part of American history, American people and American leaders thought we could withdraw from the world or participate as we chose. Certainly until the end of World War II, America did not feel that it needed a permanent foreign policy. And not immediately afterwards either because we had a nuclear monopoly and we had such a great superiority in economy. But now in the last 20 years it’s become increasingly apparent that we are part of the world and that there are no final answers to every problem. And that’s an educational process...
• And maybe somebody else has a better answer.
And somebody else has a better answer and more experience.
• In India we like to believe that while the Americans may not have had much of a geo-political underpinning to their foreign policy, we think we might have a bit more of that given our colonial past. And we see ourselves in some ways as inheritors of the British way of looking at this region, which means India being the pre-eminent power between say Singapore and Aden.
First of all, what Americans don’t know and Indians do know is that British policy east of Suez was not made in London but in Calcutta and New Delhi. So this is not even something entirely learnt from Britain, this is something that is sort of in the Indian blood. And I think that this is correct that India wants, aspires to be, at least to prevent another dominant power to emerge between Singapore and Aden. And that is compatible with American interests.
• So you think if India pushes in that direction, it will not bring back any strains. I remember your phrase ‘exasperatedly strained cordiality’...
That was a personal relationship that I described. I believe that if India conducts its strategic policy between Singapore and Aden, that America will in general support it. I don’t see any conflict emerge.
• And you think India can afford to do this in China’s neighbourhood?
Yes, I expect India to do that.
• Now let me ask you the last question, but it begs a longer answer. If you were advising the Government of India, if Kissinger Associates or Dr Henry Kissinger were advising the Government of India, tell me what are the two things you would tell the Government of India to do vis-a-vis Pakistan, China and the United States of America?
First of all, Kissinger Associates doesn’t advise governments.
• I said or Dr Kissinger.
I would tell India vis-a-vis China to adopt a friendly attitude and see what cooperation can evolve without threat by either side. With respect to Pakistan, to recognise that co-existence is essential for the well-being of both sides and that there’s an inherent difference in perspective, that India is part of the global concert now and Pakistan has a more regional emphasis.
• So you find that when Indians now talk to you or talk to fellow Americans they don’t talk so much about Pakistan.
No, on every previous visit most of the conversation was about Pakistan. On this visit there was very little conversation about Pakistan. With respect to the United States, I would say, continue the dialogue openly, frankly, tell us what is in your heart and I hope that America will reciprocate in that spirit. And I think we will have a substantial...
• And going ahead next 5 or 10 years, what is it India needs to worry about most of all?
In the immediate future, the problem is the outcome in Iraq. In the long-term future is how to integrate the shift of the centre of gravity of the world from the Atlantic to the Pacific into an international system and to address with other nations the consequences of globalisation so that there are not too many distinctions between the rich and the poor and so that among the rich the allocation of resources is conducted in a non-competitive manner.