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Planning flaws cost ’62 war: Report
Top secret document that critiqued India’s preparedness in war against China leaked
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 18
More than 52 years after India’s humiliating military defeat at the hands of China in 1962, serious flaws in India’s planning of the war against its neighbour and the much-debated “forward policy” have been pointed out.

Australia-based journalist Neville Maxwell, who claims to have a copy of the Henderson-Brooks report classified as ‘top secret’ in India, has uploaded the 126-page document on his blog. However, pages 112 to 157 are missing and so is the chapter of conclusions.

Several references in the report uploaded by Maxwell match the report ‘History of the Conflict with China, 1962’ produced by the History Division of the Ministry of Defence in 1992. The book was never published, but is available online.

Flaws in the report cited by Maxwell include gaps in the thinking of the Army and the government. The assessment of Chinese reactions to the forward policy was flawed. The opinions of the Intelligence Bureau and Military Intelligence did not match. The troop strength of the Chinese was not assessed correctly and the incidents at Galwan in Ladakh and Dhola post in the North-East are highlighted. The Indian Army strength was also much less than desired.

The Tribune does not vouch for the veracity of Maxwell’s claims. Officials in India said it could very well be a draft report and not the final version of the Henderson-Brookes report authored by Lieutenant General Henderson Brooks and Brigadier PS Bhagat, the then commandant of the Indian Military Academy (IMA).

The Ministry of Defence refused comment, saying: “Given the extremely sensitive nature of the contents of the report, which are of current operational value, it is reiterated that the Government of India has classified this report a ‘top secret’ document and, as such, it would not be appropriate to comment on the contents uploaded by Neville Maxwell.”

The report was submitted in April 1963. It has been under lock and key ever since and remains classified. There are only three known copies of the report, all in vaults in the South Block.

Citing lack of planning, the report on Maxwells’s blog says the last operational instruction was issued in February 1960 and, therefore, was considered current. The build-up to a war did not start till July 1962 and hostilities broke out in October the same year, meaning the assessment was more than two years old.

The Chinese had gradually consolidated, claims the report put out by Maxwell. It cites how the Western Command demanded a full division - some 15,000 troops - in Ladakh. In response, they were given only one-third of the requirement with no supporting arms such as artillery, mortars or MMGs. The land routes then were mule tracks. The situation was identical in the North-East. While local Army formations repeatedly asked for more troops, headquarters delayed it.

There may have been gaps as per the report uploaded by Maxwell. The then director of the Intelligence Bureau, BN Mullick, was of the opinion that the Chinese would not react to India establishing new posts and were not likely to use force against any of our posts even if they were in a position to do so. Military intelligence appreciation indicated that the Chinese would resist by force any attempt to take back territory. Mullick in his book ‘The Chinese Betrayal’, first published in 1971, had said, “Maxwell (in his book ‘India’s China War’) found justification for practically everything that the Chinese said and did during the period 1950 to 1962.”

The report goes on to cite an Army assessment of the forward policy that warned that any forward movement would be at the mercy of the Chinese Army.

It shows differences — the government was politically wanting to recover territory, hence advocated a cautious policy, whilst Army headquarters dictated a policy that was clearly militarily unsound. The forward movement was without the necessary wherewithal, says the report.

The forward policy, which had sought the raising of military outposts in areas claimed by the Chinese and the launch of aggressive patrols, increased the chances of conflict, the report said, suggesting that India was not militarily in a position to implement this.

As per the report, there are glaring lapses pointing at backroom remote-controlling from Delhi. Nobody knew who ordered the 2 Sikh Light Infantry to withdraw from Knoll area. India may have actually obliged China with its unbalanced military posture and indecisive military leadership. The Army Headquarters needed to be more responsive, says the report.

India’s response was to send troops with logistics. Kameng and Tawang in North East Frontier Agency (Arunachal Pradesh) that needed to be well-defended lacked troops. The rout of the 7 Infantry Brigade was a foregone conclusion, but it had a snowballing affect. It stopped only when the Chinese wanted it, says the report.

The report goes on to describe the withdrawal from Sela pass that eventually allowed the Chinese to reach Bomdilla, which is much closer to Assam. By the middle of November, Divisional Commanders were asking the IV Corps to withdraw their units. The pass was a formidable position, but it had no defences. It needed extra troops and logistics, but neither was provided.

The report doubts the veracity of the claims made by 1 Sikh of having thwarted an attack at Sela Pass.

The damning report

  • The assessment of Chinese reaction to Forward Policy was flawed
  • Opinions of the IB and the Military Intelligence didn’t match
  • The troop strength of the Chinese was not assessed correctly
  • The Indian Army strength was much less than desired

Fresh incursion bid by China

New Delhi: Chinese troops made a fresh bid to violate the border with India in the Chumar area of Ladakh on Sunday. They retreated only after ITBP and Army jawans formed a human wall to block them. — PTI

war of words

Ravi Shankar Prasad, BJP leaderThe humiliation was the direct outcome of the way the then PM, under pressure from his Defence Minister VK Krishna Menon, ignored the concerns of the Indian armed forces.

Ravi Shankar Prasad, BJP leader

Abhishek Singhvi, CongressSuch cheap politics showed the mindset of the BJP...much more politics could be done today about the Kargil war which happened during the NDA rule.

Abhishek Singhvi, Congress

DP Tripathi, NCPThe mistake was that he (Nehru) had reposed faith in the Chinese. If we had held talks at the border, then it would have been better, but it did not happen.

DP Tripathi, NCP






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