Henry Kissinger, a prominent figure in international diplomacy known for his adept maneuvering in global politics, passed away recently, leaving a legacy entwined with controversial diplomatic dealings and covert operations. The latest reports shed light on Kissinger’s connection to the aftermath of the Bhopal gas tragedy in 1984, revealing his role in supporting Union Carbide, the American chemical company at the center of the catastrophic event.
In the late hours of December 2 and 3 in 1984, the Union Carbide factory in Bhopal experienced a disastrous gas leak of toxic methyl isocyanate. The lethal fumes claimed thousands of lives, with over a hundred thousand people suffering severe health repercussions. The aftermath was haunting, with hospitals inundated by patients grappling with respiratory distress, skin burns, and vision impairments.
Henry Kissinger’s link to Union Carbide emerged in the wake of this tragedy. His consulting firm, Kissinger Associates, began representing Union Carbide, aiding the company in navigating legal accountability. Despite the catastrophic impact and mounting casualties, Kissinger’s involvement reflected a staunch support for Union Carbide’s interests, influencing the compensation negotiations for the victims.
An incriminating letter from Indian industrialist JRD Tata to then-Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi disclosed Kissinger’s deep engagement in advocating for Union Carbide’s position. Tata’s letter highlighted Kissinger’s stance on a settlement proposal, emphasizing Union Carbide’s readiness to offer compensation exceeding Indian court recommendations. This settlement, sanctioned by the Supreme Court in 1989, amounted to $470 million, deemed widely insufficient considering the calamitous scale of the tragedy.
Kissinger’s purported belief that such a settlement would garner public support for its apparent generosity failed to assuage the severity of the Bhopal disaster. The meager compensation, accompanied by the dropping of charges against Union Carbide and its managers, was met with international condemnation for its inadequacy in addressing the enduring plight of the victims and the affected communities.
Moreover, the shield provided by the US government to American corporate interests, including Union Carbide and Dow Chemicals, hindered justice for the Bhopal disaster victims, denying them rightful accountability and closure.
Warren Anderson, Union Carbide’s chairman during the crisis, evaded the Indian judicial system and passed away in 2014 without facing trial. Tata’s letter serves as a poignant reminder of the collaborative role played by Kissinger and the US government in restricting justice for the victims, underscoring the disparity between the deserved compensation and what was eventually granted.