In the passing of Henry Kissinger at the age of 100, the realm of diplomacy bids farewell to a titan. While not initially a trained diplomat, Kissinger's pivotal role as an aide to President Richard Nixon thrust him into the diplomatic spotlight, setting the stage for a legacy that would resonate across the corridors of power. Although his tenure as National Security Advisor and Secretary of State was brief, the immigrant from Germany wielded unparalleled influence on global affairs. His crowning achievement unfolded in 1972 when he orchestrated the secret negotiations for Nixon's historic visit to China, giving birth to the paradigm-shifting ping pong diplomacy. Even amid Nixon's ignominious resignation, Kissinger's stature as a super secretary remained more or less unscathed, extending his service under President Gerald Ford.
Yet, his legacy carries the weight of controversy. His Ph.D. thesis championed talks over war, yet the perception of expanding American military operations in Vietnam to Cambodia and Laos stained his reputation. In the process, tens of thousands were killed. Despite being a Nobel laureate for peace, the lingering shadow of war-mongering eclipsed his peacenik image. Post-retirement, Kissinger continued to shape diplomatic discourse as a speaker, author, and influencer, showcasing extraordinary brilliance and unwavering dedication. His exploration into the dangers of artificial intelligence exemplified his commitment to understanding evolving global challenges—a pursuit that persisted even into his centenarian months. Perhaps, he saw himself as the wise guardian of human civilisation.
However, his association with advising Nixon on the policy that dispatched the US Seventh Fleet to the Indian Ocean during the Bangladesh Liberation War remains a contentious point, particularly for India. His role during that period, as Bangladesh grappled with a humanitarian crisis and the spectre of war, left an indelible mark on India's perception of him. On the flip side, his involvement in geopolitical manoeuvres, plotting coups as in Chile, and orchestrating insurgencies as in Angola, reveals a complex strategist who believed in countering perceived Soviet plots by any means necessary. Not for him, Gandhi’s doctrine of means justifying ends. Henry Kissinger's legacy encompasses both diplomatic triumphs and controversies. As the world mourns his passing, debates on his contributions and complexities will persist, highlighting the enduring impact of a man who navigated the corridors of power with unparalleled intellect and influence.