“A Gripping, and heart wrenching read. A really dark phase in foreign policy.”
The Blood Telegram is a book which is written by Gary J Bass, who happens to be an investigative journalist as well as an authority on foreign policy. This book is focused on the formative years of present day Bangladesh, and the politics and foreign policy manoeuvres played out by the key players of that time – the USA, India and Pakistan. Bass has done thorough research of how the foreign policy mavericks and heads of state during that dark period reacted to the humanitarian crises which was ongoing in East Pakistan. A riveting and detailed description of the plight of the Bengalis at the hands of the Pakistani Army, and the real motives of the Indian government at the time in helping East Pakistan secede from Pakistan. This historic event, which took place in 1971, perhaps has not been highlighted as it should have been considering the massive humanitarian crises which followed, as well the geopolitical consequences which have since shaped the present day south Asia. It was as if the world developed a collective amnesia for certain events like these, or perhaps we just stood by and let the event disappear from our memories, like a passing memory.
Bass, drawing his data from the white house tape recordings, shows us a shameful period of foreign policy under the Nixon-Kissinger regime. The legendary Kissinger, perhaps considered one of the few pioneers in American Foreign Policy, is shown as a realist who does not believe in any firm political ideals, but is as sucker for realpolitik. The White House recordings also show the how the White House Actually functioned during those dark days of the pre-Watergate Nixon regime. This period might actually be the nadir of American foreign policy. Do not blame yourself if you feel like going back in time and sucker punching Nixon in the testicles after reading this book.
The Humanitarian crises of the Bengalis as portrayed by the author is just too heart wrenching and the reader might have to skip some pages to escape the hollowness and apathy of the world towards perhaps what can be called genocide which was taking place in formerly East Pakistan.
For Indians who vaguely remember or have read anything about our 1971 war, we have tended to portray ourselves as the winners of the war, and the upholders of democracy and civil liberty in south-east Asia. This book is going to dent that conception, and perhaps pierce the inflated egos of the nationalist zealots. This book shows how India plotted and schemed to break Pakistan into two, and how the Indira Gandhi government went about gathering momentum and managing the refugee crises that broke out during that time. But, it also shows how India emerged victorious from this war – both managing to win it, as well as not get sanctions from the UN – a diplomatic victory. This is perhaps one of our greatest wars, both on the military front as well as the realpolitik foreign policy front. As an Indian, it was not easy to read your country being criticised, or to read the vulgar remarks of Nixon and Kissinger. Yet, it is this honest, unbiased view if what was happening in our country at the times that we need to read. This book not only gives a good picture of American as well Indian foreign policy during that time, but it also gives a good picture of what the world was like back then.
Foreign policy buffs should definitely add this book to their library, and for readers who do not like the subject, please do note that the book is a bit long and tedious at times considering the fact that it deals with history.