1962 Sino-Indian war still stirs bitter controversy

BJP seeks to make political mileage out of leaked report that New Delhi deems too sensitive to officially release

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 19 March, 2014, 8:56pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 20 March, 2014, 8:53am


India's defence ministry says a controversial report about the country's defeat by China in a brief, bloody 1962 border war will remain classified due to its "sensitive" nature.

The comments came after excerpts from the Henderson Brooks Report analysing the causes of India's defeat were uploaded on the internet by veteran Australian journalist Neville Maxwell.

The report could not be accessed from India, and there was no immediate explanation for why the website was blocked. But India's NDTV television network website cited passages from the document it said were posted by Maxwell, who reported extensively on the war.

The conflict was painted in India as Chinese aggression across the Himalayas. But the leaked report commissioned by the Indian military said Delhi's policy of forward deployment in the high mountains had increased the chances of conflict.

The Bharatiya Janata Party, the front-runner in elections beginning next month, demanded the government release the report by former army officer Henderson Brooks so the country would know how the government of prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru pushed the military into a war it could only lose.

The investigation said that in the months leading to the war, Nehru's government ordered the military to patrol and establish posts far into the disputed border as part of a forward policy to deter the Chinese.

It accused the top military brass of failing to stand up to the government and tell the politicians that it did not have the resources to support aggressive deployment and that troops would be too thinly spread out.

"With the introduction of the forward policy, the chances of a conflict certainly increased... that this implementation would bring about a major change in the military situation was obvious and it cannot be viewed as being wise after the event," the report said.

Maxwell said on his website he had always had access to the report but had been waiting in vain for it to be declassified.

Maxwell, now nearly 90, decided to put a large part of it in the public domain because of India's unwillingness to release it.

In the war, a Chinese offensive overwhelmed India's unprepared defence forces, media reports at the time said.

The month-long war ended with China calling a unilateral ceasefire and withdrawing from India's northeast while retaining Aksai Chin, a strategic corridor linking Tibet to western China.

India's defence ministry declined to comment on the reported contents of the report.

"Given the extremely sensitive nature of the report, which is of current operational value, it is reiterated the government has classified it as a top secret document," the defence ministry said. "As such, it would not be appropriate to comment on the contents uploaded by Neville Maxwell on the web."

The revelations have given the opposition a chance to fire more salvos at the governing Congress party, which is struggling in opinion polls.

"What are they trying to hide by making the war report classified ?" BJP spokesman Ravi Shankar Prasad said. "We have a right to know what went wrong. We lost the war because of Nehru."

Additional reporting by Reuters