Make report on Indo-China war public, insists Jaitley

20 March 2014

A day after Australian journalist Neville Maxwell made public portions of the classified Henderson Brooks report on the 1962 India-China war showing the failings of India's military strategy, Bharatiya Janata Party leader Arun Jaitley asked if the "Himalyan blunder of 1962 was in fact a Nehruvian blunder".

Outnumbered and badly equipped Indian troops try and stem a Chinese attack  

The Henderson Brooks-Bhagat report, also referred to as the Henderson Brooks report, a classified report prepared by two Indian Army officers, Lieutenant General T B Henderson Brooks and Brigadier P S Bhagat, was an operations review of the causes of the Indian Army's humiliating rout by China's People's Liberation Army.

For over 50 years, the report has remained a state secret. The only two copies of the 1963 report have been confined in the vaults of the defence ministry and army headquarters, as successive governments have refused to release it.

The leader of opposition in the Rajya Sabha has asked for the rest of the report to be made public so that the nation could learn from the mistakes.

 "What has been made public is Part-I of the report. It has been reported in the media that pages 112 to 167 are still not known. Is it because these pages contain some material which can be embarrassing to those in power in 1962? The first 111 pages having been made public, it is now necessary that the balance pages also be made public rather than allow public opinion be influenced by unauthentic sources," Jaitley wrote in his blog.

The defence ministry had on Wednesday refrained from commenting on the report, which continues to be officially classified, after it was uploaded on his website by journalist Neville Maxwell.

It said ina statement, "Given the extremely sensitive nature of the contents of the Report, which are of current operational value, it is reiterated that the Government of India has classified this Report as a Top Secret document and, as such, it would not be appropriate to comment on the contents uploaded by Neville Maxwell on the Web."

The leaked report blamed the "Forward Policy" of the Nehru government and army leadership for India's debacle in the war against China.

"Given the report's extremely sensitive nature, which is of current operational value, it is reiterated that the government classified it as a top secret document and, as such, it would not be appropriate to comment on the contents uploaded by Neville Maxwell on the web," it had said

Jaitley said the contents of the report raise some legitimate questions which include the military strategy of the then government and its flawed intelligence assessment of the Chinese attitude.

Quoting the report, he said that while creating forward posts gave Chinese a pretext for invasion, the flawed opinion of officials close to the Prime Minister (Nehru) had cost the country heavily.

Arguing for making the document public, Jaitley said, "The leaked contents of the report serve as a lesson for us today. How prepared are we in our military strategy? Contemporary evidence indicates that our defence procurement has suffered. This adversely hurts our armed forces which are professionally amongst the best in the world. Are we willing to learn the lessons from 1962?"

Noting that Lt Gen T B Henderson and Brigadier Preminder Singh Bhagat who prepared the report were examining the lapses in India's military operations in the 1962 war with China, Jaitley said, "All governments in the last 52 years did not feel the necessity of making the document public. This raises a legitimate question with regard to the de-classification of archival records. Are archival records to be kept away from public gaze indefinitely?''

The BJP leader blamed Nehru and his "favourite" set of officials for their "flawed" assessment in pursuing the Forward Policy, which sought raising of outposts in areas claimed by China and aggressively patrolling them.

"The opinion of these officials close to the PM had cost this country heavily. The unpreparedness of the armed forces is writ large in the contents of the report. Was a Himalayan blunder of 1962 in fact a Nehruvian blunder?" he said.

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