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  • Dec 22, 2014
  • Updated: 7:55am
CommentInsight & Opinion

Revealing India's failures in 1962 war with China can help clear the air

Neeta Lal says it is high time for New Delhi to declassify report to bring closure and improve ties

PUBLISHED : Monday, 31 March, 2014, 4:09am
UPDATED : Monday, 31 March, 2014, 4:09am

In India's heated pre-election atmosphere, the leaking online of parts of the Henderson Brooks report - the Indian army's internal operational review of the country's ignominious defeat in the 1962 war against China - has predictably raised the political temperature.

Access to it was blocked for hours after parts were put up online by Neville Maxwell , the retired New Delhi correspondent for The Times. Maxwell is the author of a controversial 1970 book, India's China War, based on the top-secret report.

Though the Indian government denied having anything to do with the internet block, the crackdown smacked of naivety on the part of the world's largest democracy in an era when sophisticated technology facilitates access to such documents in a trice.

Despite the passage of more than half a century, the full report remains a closely guarded secret by New Delhi. Commissioned in the aftermath of the war by the then army chief, General J.N. Chaudhuri, and submitted by Lieutenant General Henderson Brooks and Brigadier P.S. Bhagat in April 1963, it gives a blow-by-blow account of India's flawed military plans, uninspiring army leadership and the disastrous implementation of the "forward policy" of then prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru's government that climaxed in the fateful debacle.

The report is particularly scathing of Nehru's policy, which contributed to India's defeat. "We acted," says the report, "on a military unsound basis of not relying on our strength but rather on believed lack of reaction from the Chinese."

Maxwell tells on his website of his frustration at not seeing the report declassified after more than half a century.

"The reasons for the long-term withholding of the report must be political, indeed probably partisan, perhaps even familial," he wrote - a reference to Nehru, the patriarch of the ruling Nehru-Gandhi dynasty, which has dominated India's political matrix for over a century.

Though demands for the report to be made public have surfaced sporadically, the government has remained unyielding, offering only an occasional dispassionate riposte. "Based on an internal study by the Indian army, the contents are not only extremely sensitive but are of current operational value," Defence Minister A.K. Antony told the lower house of Parliament in a written reply in April 2010. However, what "operational value" the document may still have after the passage of 51 years - and how it may threaten national security - continues to boggle the minds of contemporary strategic thinkers and policy pundits.

After the leaks surfaced, several Indian newspapers again demanded that the government declassify the report. "Most democracies declassify secret documents after a reasonable period of 25-30 years," The Times of India said in an editorial. "It's time India too adopted such a policy."

Indeed, the episode requires a more enlightened response from a mature political democracy.

The fact that the establishment has never conducted a public debate or parliamentary inquiry into the greatest military debacle in the history of independent India only highlights the need to declassify the report. The people have a right to know. The government needs to share with the public the hows and whys of exactly what transpired.

Declassifying the report would also provide a semblance of closure and allow the military and political leadership to move forward. And the army can still learn from its strategic failures.

Declassification could also be a way to revisit past China policy, which should now be more accommodating of the festering border dispute.

For now, New Delhi's paranoia over the report underscores its continued distrust of Beijing as an unreliable neighbour bent on territorial aggression. A more measured response, one based on a coherent and informed public debate on the war, is in order.

All the main protagonists of the war are, in any case, now gone.

A robust discussion on what went wrong, and how such a debacle can be averted in the future, could ensure that India avoids a similar humiliation.

As President Xi Jinping prepares to visit India later this year, both New Delhi and Beijing should use the opportunity to strengthen their ties.

It's time to stop viewing bilateral relations through the rusty prism of the 1962 war.

Eschewing past baggage will enable both Asian giants to broaden their scope of engagement and build a relationship premised on mutual trust and respect.

At a time when regional geopolitics is fraught with asymmetries and tension, charting a long-term and sustainable plan for enduring co-operation and mutual benefit, rather than dwelling on the past, has to be the way forward.

Neeta Lal is a New Delhi-based senior journalist


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It is not China that is unfriendly towards India, but India treats China unfairly and does not value China as a friend, instead aligns herself with Japan and the US to contain China. This is indeed a self defeating and mortal choice for India because in Japan you have a barbaric uncivilised country with no future, in the USA you have an immoral superpower whose friendship cannot even compare with what China can provide. The US looks down on India and sees India as a pawn and would love to fight China to the last Indian or Japanese. So India should choose her friends carefully and not end up in an abyss again. The choice is for India to make.
Max Diethelm
War is good business for the US military industrial complex. Qatar just spent 9 Billion USD of patriot Missiles. Who are they defending against? Iran doesn't have any real military capability because of the UN arms embargo. So spending so much just because of an imaginary enemy much to the happiness of the US. India is in a similar situation. Despite knowing that China is not India's enemy, the Indian political elites starting with Nehru needs an external enemy considering Pakistan is a poor excuse, in order to spend lavishly. So although it is the Indians that invaded Chinese territory and provoked the 1962 war which ended badly for India, such truths are hidden from the Indian public. Instead the GOI and the Indian media constantly stir up the flames of war and hatred for China. All this over lands that did not belong to British India or even the present day India. This is just morons conducting diplomacy. No wonder for a long time the US really look on India as a backward useless country more trouble than anything else. However if there's money to be made selling arms to India, the money should still be made. Especially, the Indians might want to start another war with China. With the murderous madmen Narendra Modi as the next PM anything goes. However the next time, things will not be so easy for India as in 1962 when the Chinese were quite gentlemanly and kind to the defeated Indians.
During the 1962 India-China war, Western media went into overdrive condemning an expansive China. Bertrand Russell was the only intellectual who came forward and spoke in China's defense. From his perch, he felt India was the aggressor.
The border between Colonial India – a land mass with 562 princely states – and China were poorly delimited. In 1913, one year after the overthrow of the Manchus, the British “unilaterally” – not going into the detail here – drew a border between Outer Tibet and British India. This came to be known as the McMahon Line separating China and India, which later became a bone of contention between the two Asian giants.
While China was still recoiling from its disastrous Great Leap Forward, India stealthily advanced its military outposts slowly into Aksai Chin north of McMahon Line. After a few minor skirmishes and Nehru refused to budge on his position, war broke out in both East and West of the demarcation with China winning decisive victories. In between, China requested cease fire but met with an over-confident India. When finally poised over tens of thousands square miles of Assam Plain, China withdrew unilaterally to its former line of control before India intruded into China’s territory.
Such magnanimity is seldom seen in history. But the Western media never let up on its hate propaganda for China’s class act.
Indian soldiers testified the Chinese buried their war dead with military honors. China repatriated all POWs with no conditions.
India is expected to have as the next PM Narendra Modi the butcher of Gujarat. If the Indians have any sense they should have him arrested, tried and hanged for his crimes against humanity. Nobody can trust an Indian to do anything right or honourable.
Democratic folks won’t bat an eye in killing millions of Vietnamese and Iraqis, or in using Saddam Hussein to kill a million Persians. But in my book, a nation going to war without an existential threat is always questionable.
As most of us still recall, Maxwell Taylor and McNamara in 1963 both advocated using nuclear weapons in an eventual military intervention on behalf of India. To that, China countered this threat with the successful testing of a fission device in 1964.
For an impoverished China in 1960s, one could now only say: You've come a long way, baby!
Formerly ******
The US should behave as do Russia, China, Iran, Cuba, Venezuela, and N. Korea and sell to Poland, the Baltic Sea countries, Israel, Taiwan, S. Korea, and Japan nuclear weapons and other sophisticated weapon systems. Follow this by the US supplying Uyghurs, Tibetans, and other rebel groups weapons to carry on their fight for freedom. The US also should sell to various Sunni and Shiite terrorist groups small arms so as to facilitate their killing of each other.
This will create in the world much instability and drive to the good, ole, Fortress America trillions of dollars in investment funds. This would be good for America, not to mention the highly skilled labor needed to manufacture the weapons the US would sell to the enemies of its nemeses, if not its enemies.
It's time for America to forget about peace and love in the world and all of that silly stuff and look out for number one; that being itself. A world going crazy is good for attracting to US a ton of investment money.
How About
As much as I want to see the true spirits of the US Constitution prevails in the long run for the good of all common man, I want to see whether the CCP can re-invent itself with the self correcting mechanisms of evolution, and to give the US-C ideals a good run for its money. Why this bet- a 350-Million US with their 300M EU pals will not be able to arithmetically match the 1.3-Billion China with Africa & SA in its tow. And when the hawks and bluebloods do eventually end up in Bermuda and Caymans, the Bastille to be stormed will be at Washington DC.
I am also certain the MICC or MICIC will make sure they drag the Chinese and the Indians through another 50 years of cold & hot wars before they are prepared to relinquish their stranglehold.
How About
ACT #14 (second term)
BO : But I like the Chinese and I like Asians!
Advisor/staffer/chief/Man in Suit MIS#1 : So do I Mr.P but we are still talking about survival here. In our recorded history we have NEVER defeated China- we lost half of Korea in the Korean War, we dropped more bombs in Indo China than all previous wars combined, but we still lost to the Viet Cong guerrilla.
BO : That was LBJ and Nixon’s fault?
MIS#2 : That was CCP and the Soviets! We also lost the 62 Himalayan war although our media boys did a great spin saying it was the other way round! Nixon was nuts and shouldn’t have re-engaged Mao in 72 but he had help…
BO : So you watergated Nixon?
MIS#3 : No comment.
BO: Why India – it’s a democracy for goat sake! How about Tibet? 1969’ HK Riot?
MIS#1: It takes a billion to counterbalance another billion Mr.P. Dalai is a friend and yes we sent a few operatives down to HK to stir things up…
BO: Why China again - because we never beat them?
MIS#1: China is run by a chameleon CCP- they don’t have to fuss over lobbying and buying up the senators congressman like we do to keep up with appearance, they work ten times faster than we do.
MIS#2: And because Mr. P if they do organize themselves, aside GDP, consumption, growth, their 1.3B people can drown us in tweets!
BO: do what you will, and send Michelle in March ..
MIS#3: Mr. P we may still end up doing Syria shortly, just so that you know.
Max Diethelm
The old boys club of which BO can never be a member (much like the Freemasons) have mastered everything Hitler did but can do even better and slicker. Just look at the trash in CNN (Fareed Zakaria plagiarism notwithstanding and others with lots of mindless sound bites, expert at everything) The Soviets found out about this (Gorby was an idiot), Russia also (Yeltsin but too late) and now Ukraine although Putin gave the wimps a black eye. Hilary the B and big C had a fit and was foaming from the mouth. (BTW she's definitely a member of the old boys club fitting for the next POTUS). Putin is the man. Lets hope Mr Xi isn't clueless like the Indians.
How About
Except that was over 50 years ago when wars was still fought the hard way by the proxy country using soldiers. Now US only franchises proxy wars to their cronies, they choose the smarter drone war warfare [without needing to declare war against whom it is waged] .
ACT #1
2009 Jan 20 pm after the cocktails: staffers/joint-chief/ Man In Suit MIS #1 : Congratulation Mr.P, now let’s start with World-Domination class 101- if we don’t continue the Afghan Iraq War, we’ll go bankrupt in 3 months!”
BO : But I want to shut down the Guant-Bay and call back the troops!
MIS#2 : If you do that we’ll go bankrupt in 1 month, the GFC 5-months ago just turned the global GDP to negative in the next 2 years. Continuing this war is the only way USA can survive Mr. P!
BO : B-S, I don’t buy that!
MIS#3 : We kill black men in gas stations here in this Washington DC every month. The last time a white president expressed doubts about a similar discussion we blew his brains off in Dallas.
BO : You are serious, I just got sworn in today, I was elected to be the POTUS and this is lesson #101?
MIS#1 : Of course we are kidding Mr. P, tell us the one thing you want to do for the folks of USA?
BO : Healthcare!
MIS#2 : Alright- you'll get that and your library, BUT you will let us run the country?
All : deal!
MIS = MICC, ****www.consortiumnews.com/2011/011611b.html



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