Publicise report

Publicise report

It is unfortunate that parts of the classified Henderson Brooks-PS Bhagat report on India’s military debacle in the 1962 war with China, which were made public by Australian journalist Neville Maxwell this week, have been blocked out of sight in India.

Maxwell had put up a section of the report on his web site which has now been made inaccessible in India within hours of its publication. Only the Indian government could have done it, especially because it has been its persistent position that the report is sensitive and is of current operational value. Maxwell was a correspondent in India in the 1960s and has published a book India’s China War which partly relied on material from the report. There have been persistent demands in the country for publication of the full report.

The report was prepared by General Brooks and Brigadier Bhagat after they were commissioned for it by the army leadership after the war. It is considered to have pinpointed the failures and lapses of the Indian establishment, official, political and military, which led to the humiliating defeat in 1962. It is said to have blamed the lack of military underpinning for Nehru’s Forward Policy of setting up border outposts in disputed areas and his misjudgement of China’s intentions, lack of preparedness and wrong assessments on the part of military commanders and operational drawbacks as the main contributing factors.

There is no reason to withhold them from the public realm five decades after the event. Instead, throwing light on them will contribute to a better understanding of the decisions and actions of those times and help to avoid mistakes in future. India is much stronger now and the operational and logistic situations have changed so much that revelations about past lapses would hardly have an impact now.

Maxwell feels that the government’s reasons for keeping the report under wraps are political, probably partisan and perhaps familial. Nehru’s standing in India’s history is high and secure and it is wrong to think that it will be diminished by the findings of the report.

It is also a fallacy to think that the report can be kept away from the public eye in these days of easy and open communications. An addiction to secrecy is no sign of strength in most situations. The country should be able to face its past, warts and all, and learn from failures. The right response should be to lift the lid on the report.