India's Chinese Takeaway - The New Indian Express

India's Chinese Takeaway

Published: 23rd March 2014 06:00 AM

Last Updated: 23rd March 2014 07:37 AM

I was less than four months old when the Chinese army sliced through our forward positions like hot knife through butter. The average Chinese soldier who had appeared to Pundit Nehru to be only three-and-a-half-foot tall before October 1962 had grown over 10 feet at least by the end of November 1962 and Pundit himself had become the biggest chump this side of anywhere. How did this happen? An enquiry was commissioned to two army officers. They were not given access to the communications from senior officers of the Army Headquarters, defence ministry or the PM’s secretariat. They did not have access to the foreign ministry. They did not have access to the offices from where the China policy had been whimsically prosecuted. They were to look only into the following aspects: the training, the equipment, the system of command, the physical fitness of troops, the capacity of commanders at all levels to influence the men under their command.

I strongly feel had the terms of reference included a detailed investigation into if/how the food habits of our men scattered thinly in the front contributed to battle outcome, we would be on more interesting and relevant territory. Alas, a scouring of the report yields no sign that Lt General Henderson Brooks looked for any such connection, however tenuous. For if he had, then defence minister Y B Chavan would have been happy to seize upon such a causative relationship and would have had no hesitation in announcing to the nation that the Chinese problem had been identified and henceforward our troops would be better prepared. We would consequently have had many more Chinese chefs in our army. I don’t know if there exists such a connection in the Chinese side, but look at the compelling evidence: even while casually slaughtering our men by the hundreds, the Chinese, they had gobbled up, as though it were Chinese food, approximately 35,000 sq km of territory in the Aksai Chin areas and have laid claims to almost all of Arunachal Pradesh (some 90,000 sq km). Instead what Nehru did was to pretend the report didn’t exist and ordered it locked for posterity by classifying it ‘top secret’. Seven years later Neville Maxwell’s India’s China War came out, drawing almost exclusively from the report, especially in the chapter that deals with the actual war, which is an exhausting and grim catalogue of what went wrong.

I asked a couple of our army chiefs if they had read the report. Both said yes they had. I asked them how high they had reached in the hierarchy before they saw it. Both said they accessed the report when they could not have got another promotion; they had become army chief. Think of it: there have been 20 army chiefs after our crushing war with China, and year after year after year for over 50 years, our officer cadre have successively grown up and retired, trained to fight another war with China without having had the opportunity to go through the report. I certainly feel very safe.

I am glad our National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon now has the clarity to say that we should not dignify the Henderson Brooks report and that he does not think it is “somehow critical to our national security”. If it is not worth the paper it is typed on, why not declassify it? Huh? But more on that later.

Sudarshan is most recently author of Adrift

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