By Anusha Sundar:
In the early 1960s, Fidel Castro was gaining power in Cuba and the United States could not allow a Communist abode at their doorstep. The Department of Defence proposed Operation NorthwoodsÂ in the year 1962. The plan was to bomb US cities in order to whip up anti-Cuban sentiments. The proposal was rejected by the Kennedy administration but nevertheless reveals the limits the government was ready to push in order to win bloc politics. The administration could have easily concealed itÂ to ensure the faith of the American people in their democracy remained intact. However, they chose a higher path and were brave enough to release it. The Indian Government, on the other hand, scurries from its past, let alone acknowledge its importance.
Half a century after it was authored by Lieutenant general T.B Henderson Brooks and Brigadier General Preminder Bhagat of the Indian Armed Forces, the Henderson Brooks-Bhagat Report that critically analysed the 1962 Sino-Indian war remains classified. The report crucial to the critical examination of India’s operation makes it obvious that the cause of the defeat at the Himalayan borders is not just because of military unpreparedness but also the chaotic mismanagement and shoddy decision making at New Delhi. The Sino-Indian war had begun on 20th of October 1962, when the Chinese entered the Indian Territory by breaking the McMahon Line, a boundary that the latter considers its lawful national frontier and which the former disputed. Although it was a brief engagement of armed forces, it proved disastrous with tragic results for India.
The controversy over the declassification of Henderson report was sparked after the current Defence minister Mr. Arun Jaitley conveniently called the ‘national security’ card when he was probed into an answer by the Rajya Sabha. Ironically, he was the same man who raised hue and cry over the INC’s decision to keep the document a state secret. The successive Government’s decision to keep the Henderson Report sealed has intrigued many. How damageable is its contents to the Government that Mr. Jaitley chooses embarrassment over a chance of putting the INC to shame?
Neville Maxwell, however, tells a different tale. The Australian-British journalist who leaked the first part of Henderson report in February 2014 on his website has blogged that ‘the text nowhere touches on issues that could have current strategic or tactical relevance.’ Maxwell is also the author of ‘India’s China War’ which contains an analysis of the report in a gist. The steadfast refusal of the Government to declassify the report officially inspite of it already open for public access on Maxwell’s website, is a classic example of politicization of history. It is obvious that deeply vested political interests are in play to hush up past blunders and an opportunity to critically examine the Sino-Indian war by experts is being missed. What is equally infuriating is the government’s absolute lack of transparency, infringing on an Indian citizen’s right to information. It is shameful and immature on the part of the Indian government to not own up to their slip-ups. History is subject to perception and fresh information, especially from significant sources, often aids in developing this perception. It is vital in order to bring lucidity to the gray areas in India’s post-independent affairs with China that the Henderson report be declassified.
According to official reports, the Sino-Indian war claimed the lives of fifteen hundred Indian soldiers and made over four thousand Indians PoW in Chinese camps.Â The Indian government owes it to its citizens and in particular to those jawaans who fought in harsh, freezing conditions to release these documents. If indeed, the report is of national interest as the Ministry of Defence claims it to be; it should have no problem in declassifying the document after blacking out sensitive statements.
“My Henderson Brooks Albatross.” Neville Maxwell’s Blog. 7 February 2014. Web. 15 July 2014.