1962- India China debacle
The front page of the, The Times of India reads “ 1962 war report leaked, BJP gets ammo to hit Congress” according to this article after India lost the war with China in 1962 Lt. General Henderson Brooks was appointed to conduct an operational review of the Army’s reverses. Lt. Brooks then submitted a top secret report in April 1963. This report blames the ill-timed ‘Forward policy’ of the then Nehru government for the humiliating loss of the country. This does not really come as a surprise, a lot of books have been written on how India should have reacted and all the theories point to this conclusion only. However the release of this report in the election season is bound to cause a furor for an already troubled Congress.
What does the forward policy mean? According to this forward policy the Indian troops were directed to patrol, establish posts “as far forward as possible” from existing positions. The Henderson report claims this was the major mistake based on the wrongful premise that the Chinese troops will not react. However this provoked China to launch invasion, the Indian army did not have the required quantum of forces in both Ladakh and NEFA to carry out the forward policy, which led to the defeat.
A section of this controversial report has been made public by an Australian journalist Neville Maxwell. The status of this report in India is still classified and only one copy of the report lies in the defence secretary’s office in the Ministry of Defence. This leak coming a month before the general elections is a severe blow to the Congress led UPA government who is already struggling with charges of graft and price rise. The best that they can do at this moment is to accept the mistake made by their predecessors and declassify the report. This will not only help the establishment learn from the mistakes made in the war but it will also enable a debate on how the greatest military debacle should have taken place.
More than half a century later, when the defence ministry states that the report contains “sensitive information of current operational value” it appears to be a weak argument which will not go down well with the public. If the government has nothing to hide then declassifying the report shouldn’t be a problem. However if what Mr. Maxwell has published is true (which it most likely is) then also the most appropriate step should be making the report public and enable people to decide for themselves.
Sure this gives the BJP yet another point to attack the Congress, however one should not forget that this happened over half a century ago and the next government should take this report as a cue to revisit India’s policy with China.
Views presented in the article are those of the author and not of ED.