The UPA govt is on a spot of bother over the leak of a top secret report on the 1962 war with China where India was defeated. Parts of the report were uploaded on Australian scribe Neville Maxwell’s blog, who was the New Delhi correspondent of the Times of London then.
Maxwell, who had reported on the war, said that he had for long assumed that India would release the Henderson Brooks report after a decent interval, given that he had published parts of it in his book in 1970.
“The passing of years showed that the assumption was mistaken. I did not have to rely on memory to tell the falsity of the govt’s assertion that keeping the report secret was necessary for reasons of national security. I had a copy and the text nowhere touches on issues that could have current strategic or tactical relevance,” he said. “The reasons for the long term withholding must be political, indeed probably partisan, perhaps even familial. Since I kept it to myself, I was therefore complicit in a continuing cover-up,” he added.
Two typed copies of the report by then Lt Gen Henderson Brooks and then Brigadier PS Bhagat (later Lt Gen) were believed to have existed -- one with the Defence Secretary and another in the Army’s Military Operations Directorate, both having offices on the first floor of New Delhi’s South Block. The release of Maxwell’s copy now indicates that there could have been a third or at least a carbon copy.
The Henderson Brooks report, also put up on its website for downloading by the Indian Defence Review, criticised the then Jawaharlal Nehru govt, the military and the intelligence agencies for assuming the Chinese would not escalate hostilities, whereas militarily they should have thought “exactly the opposite”. Nehru’s ‘Forward Policy’, which sought aggressive patrolling by Indian troops and raising of outposts in areas claimed by China, increased the chances of conflict, the report said, suggesting India was not in a position to implement the policy.
Referring to many high-level meetings, one of which was attended by Nehru, the report said, the Army HQ and the then IB Director thought China would not use force against India.
The army had overruled the concerns raised by the Western Command, which said “we would be defeated in detail” in case of hostilities, the report said.
The Army’s belief was shattered when the Chinese army ran through Arunachal Pradesh and captured large parts of Ladakh.
Concerned over military weakness on the ground as the ‘Forward Policy’ was being executed, the Western Command had submitted to the army HQ a ‘Reappraisal of the situation on ground as on August 15, 1962’, setting forth long and short-term recommendations, which were brushed aside, the report said.
“The review was undertaken as the Forward Policy was primarily introduced to baulk the Chinese claims in Ladakh. Had the developments stemming out of it been correctly apprised by the HQ and correlated to the NEFA (then North East Frontier Agency, now Arunachal Pradesh), it is possible we would not have precipitated matters till we were better prepared in both theatres,” the report added.
The report questioned the actions of Lt Gen BM Kaul, then Chief of General Staff, who resigned following the debacle.