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Leaked 1962 report reveals India’s still-unresolved military weaknesses

Discussion in 'Military History' started by layman, Apr 2, 2014.

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  1. layman

    layman Aurignacian STAR MEMBER

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    SOURCE: THE INTERPRETER

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    The recent public controversy in India over the release of a secret report on India’s 1962 military defeat by China reveals a lot about some of the big strategic problems India faces.

    The so-called Henderson Brooks Report was an independent report commissioned by the Indian Army in the months following its humiliating defeat at the hands of China in October 1962. Conducted by British Lieutenant General Henderson Brooks, the report was scathing about political interference in the army, the incompetence of India’s generals and their failure to provide honest advice to India’s civilian leaders.

    After being kept secret for more than 50 years, portions of the report have now been circulated on the web, sparking controversy in the run-up to India’s election.

    The 1962 war was a short border war that occurred after China lost patience with India’s so-called ‘Forward Policy’ of moving troops further into disputed territory in the Himalayas. Unfortunately for India, the arrogance of its political leaders, led by Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, and the extraordinary incompetence of a small number of Indian military leaders, led to disaster and humiliation. Thousands of Indian troops were killed or wounded and some 4000 captured.

    Despite the heroism of many Indian soldiers, proud regiments of the Indian Army were routed in a matter of days, to the extent that the Chinese army could have marched all the way to Calcutta with little or no opposition. Nehru was reduced to pleading for American and British military help to turn the tide. Luckily for India, after ‘teaching India a lesson’ Mao Zedong ordered the unilateral withdrawal of Chinese troops to their original positions, which they have to a large extent continued to occupy since then.

    The historical soundness of India’s territorial claims in the Himalayas, Nehru’s refusal to countenance Chinese requests to negotiate and India’s subsequent defeat were documented in excruciating detail in a 1970 book by Australian journalist and academic Neville Maxwell. Whether or not one agrees with all the details, Maxwell made a damning case against Nehru and the leadership of the Indian Army which has never been properly refuted. Many of Maxwell’s observations are firmly supported by the Henderson Brooks Report, which has been kept from public gaze all this time.

    The Henderson Brooks Report (and Maxwell’s book) makes clear that the immediate cause of the conflict was Nehru’s order for an unprepared and undergunned Indian Army to clear Chinese outposts from territory claimed by India. The well prepared Chinese army responded with overwhelming force. Unfortunately, it has been in the interests of New Delhi (and the West) to characterise the conflict as a case of unprovoked communist aggression.

    But the 1962 war is not just an unfortunate and short-lived episode in history. The causes and consequences of that war live on in New Delhi’s stance about the disputed borders, its fears about a rising China and in the continuing inadequacies in the organisation of India’s military.

    Continuing bitterness about the war is probably still the greatest single factor in Sino-Indian relations. This includes Delhi’s inability to compromise on the border dispute (although to be fair, China’s stance has probably hardened since the early 1960s) and the visceral fears of many Indian strategists that China is trying to ‘surround’ India.

    The defeat also highlighted severe deficiencies in the Indian military that have never been properly rectified. The Indian military is kept far, far away from the centres of decision-making in Delhi; it is given edicts by the civilian bureaucracy which it is expected to obey without question or consideration for the realities on the ground. There is little opportunity for Indian military leaders to provide advice to the government on the strategic environment or on military options. India has no Chief of Staff to provide unified military leadership, leading to severe deficiencies in planning and the ability of the armed services to work together. This organisational structure was originally driven by the reputed disdain for the military felt by India’s post-independence leaders and fears of military coups. All of these problems were evident in the aftermath of 1962 and none have been addressed.

    The failure to tackle these issues can to a large extent be traced to India’s failure to have an open public discussion about the 1962 defeat. Neville Maxwell was vilified over his book and the Henderson Brooks Report was kept under lock and key. The release of portions of the Henderson Report (engineered by Maxwell, now 87 years old) has reignited these issues in the run-up to India’s general election. The extent of the controversy is highlighted by Maxwell’s claims that he was forced to make the report available on the web after several Indian newspaper editorsrefused to take it.

    It is a telling aspect of Indian political debate, and the extent to which India’s Congress Party is still invested in the reputation of Jawaharlal Nehru, that a 50 year-old report written by a long-dead British general should become an election issue. One hopes that the next Indian government will be prepared to have an open discussion about the 1962 war and address the many strategic concerns that live on half a century after that conflict.
     
    venureddy and sangos like this.
  2. sangos

    sangos Lt. Colonel ELITE MEMBER

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    Looks like the article and the headline are two unrelated stories of half truths.
     
  3. marshal panda

    marshal panda Lieutenant FULL MEMBER

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    Lt.Gen Kaul was not summoned to testify before the H-Brooks committee.As for Neville Maxwell book, in May 1976,Mr.Lee of Singapore was presented with a copy of this book by Mr.Hua. Hua said that the book was the correct version of the war. Lee said,- Mr.Prime Minister,this is your version of the war. There is another version, the Indian version. And in any case, I am from south east Asia.
     
  4. venureddy

    venureddy Major SENIOR MEMBER

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    i hope our military have veto kind of some power in some important issues. I wonder how political baboons can decide what our military should do which even the military does not want to do.
     
  5. layman

    layman Aurignacian STAR MEMBER

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    Henderson Brooks – Too many questions
    SOURCE: Ajai Shukla

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    Were this a straightforward world, the recent unveiling of theHenderson Brooks report would have conclusively bared the secrets of 1962, answering the burning question: was the army’s shameful rout at the hands of China due to political mismanagement or was military incompetence largely to blame? Instead, the Henderson Brooks report itself appears to be, at least partly, a cover-up. The controversy has only become murkier.

    Australian journalist and writer Neville Maxwell earlier this month posted on the Internet a hitherto “top secret” report on the military debacle of 1962, authored by Lieutenant General T B Henderson Brooks, a senior Indian Army officer. The so-called Henderson Brooks report (HBR), which New Delhi has suppressed since 1963, had always been rumoured to contain the real answers. Critics of Jawaharlal Nehru, then prime minister, have alleged for half a century that the report was buried because it highlighted his political ineptitude. It was never explained why the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government failed to declassify the report whilst it governed from 1998 to 2004, or why the military itself has consistently opposed its release.

    Like in many murder mysteries, the corpse turns up on page 1 of the HBR, with the author making the startling revelation that his hands were tied from the start by the army chief – General J N Chaudhuri, who was appointed after General P N Thapar resigned in the wake of defeat. Henderson Brooks reveals that Chaudhuri had issued him “advice” not to review the functioning of Army Headquarters (AHQ) in his inquiry. In the army, a senior commander’s “advice” constitutes an order that is not given in writing. Significantly, the written orders for the inquiry mention no such restriction.

    The author clearly felt that this restriction subverted his inquiry. He notes that it would “have been convenient and logical to trace the events from Army Headquarters and then move down to Commands [the headquarters under AHQ] for more details, and, finally, ending up with field formations for the battle itself”.

    A frustrated Henderson Brooks rued that “a number of loose ends concerning Army Headquarters could not be verified and have been left unanswered. The relationship between defence ministry and Army and the directions given by the former to the latter could, therefore, also not be examined.”

    Why might Chaudhuri have steered Henderson Brooks clear of AHQ and, by extension, of orders passed by Defence Minister V K Krishna Menon and his defence ministry officials? We must fish for that answer in the swirling political-military cross-currents of that period, with army generals carefully disassociating themselves from the discredited General B M Kaul and those close to him – the so-called “Kaul boys”. Kaul had leveraged his proximity to Nehru and Krishna Menon to bypass regular command channels (which were supine in any case) in establishing posts on disputed territory based on a political-intelligence assessment that the Chinese might bark but they would not bite. Chaudhuri knew that an inquiry that examined all the written orders, minutes of meetings in AHQ and defence ministry, and recorded personal statements from key protagonists might establish the damning truth – that there were no “good guys” in 1962. If political direction was deeply flawed, General Kaul’s self-serving support for the political-intelligence assumption of Chinese docility led to national humiliation and left 3,250 soldiers dead. What better way for a new and ambitious chief to forge ties with the political leadership than to confine the inevitable inquiry to tactical issues?

    In reflecting upon the possibility of a motivated cover-up, one must consider the personalities involved. Chaudhuri was an articulate, intelligent cavalry officer about whom contemporaries say; “He was held in high esteem, especially by himself”. Chaudhuri and his wife were active socialites and would today be described as Page 3 people. Contemporaries recall their fondness for Balkan Sobranie cigarettes in stylish holders. Chaudhuri fancied himself one of the intellectual elite; in violation of norms, he wrote a column for a national daily, under a pseudonym, even as army chief. His professional acumen was not impressive; faced with a Pakistani advance in Khem Karan in 1965, he ordered a retreat that would have handed a large chunk of Punjab to Pakistan. Fortunately, Lieutenant General Harbaksh Singh, his subordinate commander, refused to retreat. This was the chief who whispered to Henderson Brooks not to wield the broom too vigorously.

    Then there was Henderson Brooks himself, anglicised in accent, habits and outlook, a general who eventually migrated to Australia – Neville Maxwell’s country. A competent, if plodding, officer, Henderson Brooks lacked the flair and assertiveness of contemporaries like Sam Manekshaw. In “outing” Chaudhuri’s apparently confidential verbal directive to scale down his inquiry, Henderson Brooks must have surprised his chief.

    There must also have been discomfiture over the HBR’s criticism of the higher military and political leadership. It pointed out that Krishna Menon’s orders not to keep records of his meetings absolved everyone of responsibility; termed “militarily unsound” the assessments of Nehru favourite, Intelligence Bureau chief B N Mullick; and expressed incredulity at tactical interference by Foreign Secretary M J Desai. Was the decision to expand their mandate taken by Henderson Brooks himself, or by his co-author, the iconic, Victoria Cross-winning Brigadier P S Bhagat?

    Yet Henderson Brooks’ ire was directed mainly at the army’s failure. It is hard to argue with Srinath Raghavan who says, “…the army also bore an institutional responsibility – one that cannot be attributed merely to a few bad generals. The simple fact is that, from 1959 to 1962, the Indian army’s professional capacities at all levels were put to the test – and found badly wanting.”

    Of course, this conclusion is incomplete and one-dimensional; the muzzled HBR is as critical of the political direction of that conflict. Ultimately, the HBR’s even-handedness may have caused its suppression. With everyone – the politicians, the defence ministry, AHQ, General Kaul and the field command – heavily criticised, everyone has good reason to suppress the report.
     
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