Neville Maxwell, the author of “India’s China war” who has been a critic of India’s military strategy has released large parts of Henderson Brook’s report . The report was prepared by Lt. General TB Henderson and Brig. Bhagat. The two officers were examining the lapses in India’s military operations in the 1962 war with China. In the last 52 years the report had been kept as a closely guarded secret. 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 are to be kept away from public gaze indefinitely. If the document pertains to internal security there may be some public interest served in keeping them a secret for some time. However, to keep these documents ‘top secret’ indefinitely may not be in larger public interest. Any Nation is entitled to learn from the mistakes of the past. The security relevance of a document loses its relevance in the long term future. Any society is entitled to learn from the past mistakes and take remedial action. With the wisdom of hind sight I am of the opinion that the report’s contents could have been made public some decades ago.
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 .
The contents of the report also raise some legitimate questions. The military strategy of the then government has been seriously questioned. The intelligence assessment of the Chinese attitude was a flawed one. The military strategy in creating ‘forward posts’ has been criticized as providing to the Chinese a pretext for invasion. It further appears from the report that the Prime Minister and his favourite set of officials both in the Army and in the Intelligence establishment were flawed in their assessment. In fact, the opinion of these officials close to the Prime Minister 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?
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 who are professionally amongst the best in the world. Are we willing to learn the lessons from 1962 ?