WASHINGTON – President Nixon (search) referred privately to Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi (search) as an "old witch" and national security adviser Henry Kissinger insulted Indians in general, according to transcripts of Oval Office tapes and newly declassified documents released Tuesday.
Nixon and Kissinger met in the Oval Office on the morning of Nov. 5, 1971, to discuss Nixon's conversation with Gandhi the day before.
"We really slobbered over the old witch," Nixon told Kissinger, according to a transcript of their conversation released as part of a State Department compilation of significant documents involving American foreign policy.
Nixon's remark came as the two men speculated about Gandhi's motives during the White House meeting and discussed India's intentions in the looming conflict with neighboring Pakistan. The United States was allied with Pakistan and saw India as too closely allied with the Soviet Union.
"The Indians are bastards anyway," Kissinger told the president. "They are starting a war there."
Kissinger also told his boss that he had bested Gandhi in their meeting.
"While she was a bitch, we got what we wanted too," Kissinger said. "She will not be able to go home and say that the United States didn't give her a warm reception and therefore in despair she's got to go to war."
Other documents chart U.S. contacts with China, as facilitated by Pakistan, and U.S. concern that India was developing nuclear technology. The archive covers U.S. policy in South Asia in 1971 and 1972.
The documents, many declassified only earlier this month, generally cover old ground, several Cold War scholars said. Still, the particulars are intriguing, including rosters of who was in various meetings and quotes from conversations among Nixon, his aides and foreign leaders.
"They see everything through a Cold War prism," said Bill Burr (search), a senior analyst at the National Security Archive at George Washington University. "It's a wholly distorted view."
U.S.-India relations were strained for decades as a result of Cold War alliances and have significantly improved only recently. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice visited India earlier this year, and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will visit Washington in July.