india-china war-1962
Military history brooks no hiding
The unofficial posting on the Web of the purported Henderson Brooks Report on the 1962 debacle has triggered a debate on the sense behind keeping such documents forever under the wraps. Worse, successive governments in India have failed to even commission inquiries into many important military operations.
By Dinesh Kumar
HE manner in which the Henderson Brooks Report on the 1962 Sino-Indian War has been made publicly available comes as a severe disappointment, if not a downright insult, to the Indian public and reflects an archaic mindset of the government.

Men on the spot

Sordid tale of dysfunction, humiliation
By Dinesh Kumar
HE Henderson Brooks Report, as released on the Web by Neville Maxwell, an octogenarian Australian and former India correspondent of The Times, London, brings out a sad and humiliating tale of how ill-prepared, ill-equipped and outnumbered Army formations were pushed into fighting a 33-day war against a formidable adversary from October 20 to November 21, 1962.






india-china war-1962
Military history brooks no hiding
The unofficial posting on the Web of the purported Henderson Brooks Report on the 1962 debacle has triggered a debate on the sense behind keeping such documents forever under the wraps. Worse, successive governments in India have failed to even commission inquiries into many important military operations.
By Dinesh Kumar

Conspicuous absence of planning and provision of logistic support left the troops to fend for themselves against a determined enemy
Conspicuous absence of planning and provision of logistic support left the troops to fend for themselves against a determined enemy.

THE manner in which the Henderson Brooks Report on the 1962 Sino-Indian War has been made publicly available comes as a severe disappointment, if not a downright insult, to the Indian public and reflects an archaic mindset of the government. For, a report marked ‘Top Secret’ can be leaked to a foreign journalist within a few years of it being prepared and soon after find its way in the international domain in the form of a book (India’s China War by Neville Maxwell), but it cannot be publicly released because, according to India’s present Defence Minister (and all his predecessors), its contents “are not only extremely sensitive, but are of current operational value”. Current operational value even after 51 long years of a war fought with World War-II vintage equipment! Sounds rather farfetched, to say the least.

Even after the report was posted on a website by Neville Maxwell, an 88-year-old former India correspondent for The Times, London, and an Australian citizen, it has not revealed anything that was not already known in the public domain. In addition to Maxwell’s book, several Indian Army officers have authored books to reveal what has been one of India’s worst kept secrets. Yet, the government has gone on to mindlessly block its publication, which has been as amusing as it has been disgusting.

The ‘Operations Review’ was commissioned by the Chief of Army Staff on December 14, 1962, exactly 23 days after the war ended on November 21, to essentially examine the reverses suffered by the Indian Army. The report was submitted on May 12, 1963, to General Joyanato Nath Chaudhri, who had taken over as the Army chief after his predecessor General Pran Nath Thapar had resigned following the defeat. General Chaudhri forwarded the report on July 2 that year to Defence Minister Yashwantrao Balwantrao Chavan, who again had taken over from his predecessor Vengalil Krishnan Krishna Menon after the latter had resigned.

The terms of reference were confined to examining ‘training, equipment, system of command, physical fitness of the troops and the capacity of commanders at all levels to influence the men under their command’. The two-member committee comprising Lt General Thomas Bryan Henderson Brooks and Brigadier (later lieutenant general) Premindra Singh Bhagat was specifically asked not to review the functioning of the Army Headquarters and, as a result, ‘the relationship between the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and the Army Headquarters and the directions given by the former to the latter could therefore also not be examined’. In other words, the report was confined to Army operations during the war.

The Henderson Brooks Report has three other major anomalies. First, both members of the Henderson Brooks committee were not given access to top-secret documents of the Military Operations Directorate. Second, Lt General Henderson Brooks was entrusted with the task of commenting on tactical decisions and actions of several officers senior to him despite earlier having been just a Corps Commander. Third, Brigadier Bhagat had been Director Military Intelligence (1959-1961) prior to the war and therefore should arguably not have been on the review committee.

Obsession with secrecy

But then this is not the only occasion when the government has blocked release of defence and security related reports or studies. For example, secrecy obsessed successive governments at the Centre spanning every political dispensation have similarly prevented the release of the Official History of the October-November 1962 Sino-Indian War; both the April 1965 and September 1965 India-Pakistan wars; and the December 1971 India-Pakistan war even after the lapse of, respectively, almost 52, 49 and 43 years.

This is despite a special committee headed by former Defence Secretary Narinder Nath Vohra (currently Governor of Jammu and Kashmir) and comprising Lt General Satish Nambiar, a retired Deputy Chief of Army Staff, and Dr SN Prasad, a former Director of the History Division of the MoD, recommending in January 2001 the release of the three war histories in their original form. In addition to arguing that declassifying the report would help the armed forces draw lessons and also because it was legally obligatory to declassify documents after 30 years, it also pointed out that it made little sense not to declassify the war histories when so many years had elapsed and scores of books, including accounts by military officers who had fought in these wars, had been published.

This is despite the war histories being merely a war account and not an inquiry report apportioning blame or responsibility. What is ironical is that the histories of all these three wars were made available on the Web almost a decade-and-a-half ago because of exposes by the media. However, although these reproductions may be true to the original texts, these are not authenticated.

All this only reflects a regressive and primitive mindset of a government that finds it difficult to publicly face the reality, accept responsibility, learn appropriate lessons and enlighten the more informed members of the public, such as the defence academic community who could contribute with its analysis that could be of use to the government and the armed forces alike. More importantly, the armed forces themselves need to draw lessons from the wars so as to avoid repeat of mistakes and develop better tactics and strategy. As well known British military historian and theorist, Basil Henry Liddell Hart, once said, ‘History is a catalogue of mistakes. It is our duty to profit by them’.

Dependent on memoirs

Instead, the defence community in the country have to depend on memoirs written by retired armed forces officers. This has led to correction of facts, such as the revelation that the Pakistani submarine PNS Ghazi had sunk on its own rather than being sunk by the Indian Navy (War in the Indian Ocean by Vice Admiral MK Roy), or led to interesting disclosures such as that General Chaudhri had asked the Western Army Commander, Lt General Harbakhsh Singh, to withdraw Army troops to Beas, which the latter declined to follow as he considered it to be a militarily unsound decision (In the Line of Duty: A Soldier Remembers by Lt General Harbakhsh Singh). It was also revealed how the Army pushed on in East Pakistan without Dacca (later renamed Dhaka) ever figuring in their war plans (Surrender at Dacca: Birth of Nation by Lt General JFR Jacob).

Western academics and defence analysts have a longstanding tradition of researching, analysing and publishing incisive histories of wars and battles based on declassified documents, which in turn form part of essential reading for armed forces officers in the US, the UK and other advanced democracies. Military Misfortunes: The Anatomy of Failure in War by Eliot A. Cohen and John Gooch and Battling the Elements: Weather and Terrain in the Conduct of War by Harold A. Winters – all civilian academics – are two of an endless list of such books.

There has only been one occasion each when the government in India has voluntarily declassified a war history and a war review report. The first was the Official War History of the 1947-48 Kashmir war with Pakistan, which was released in 1989, 45 years after the war ended. The second has been the Kargil Review Committee Report on the May-July 1999 Kargil War with Pakistan titled From Surprise to Reckoning that, most remarkably, was released merely a year later in 2000.

Two drawbacks

Overall, the government suffers from two major deficiencies on this count. First, it remains as secretive as ever. Second, it no longer encourages writing of military histories.

The following few examples of secrecy further tell a story. In December 2007, the MoD denied releasing information relating to the sinking of the Indian Navy warship INS Khukri in the Arabian Sea which had been torpedoed by a Pakistani submarine 36 years prior during the 1971 India-Pakistan war. The reason given: “Data released on INS Khukri’s sinking, if released, could compromise its tactical thought process.” This led an exasperated then Chief Information Commissioner (CIC) AN Tiwari to exclaim “Can the country be held hostage for failure of the defence”, while chiding the government for being ‘obsessive with confidentiality’. In contrast, all relevant information relating to HMS Sheffield, destroyed by an Argentinian missile during the 1982 Falklands War, was opened to the general public.

In 2007, the Union Ministry of Home Affairs declined to declassify documents pertaining to Subhas Chandra Bose’s death on the plea that ‘the public disclosure may lead to a serious law and order problem in the country, especially in West Bengal’. In 2009, a request filed under the Right to Information Act for a copy of the history of the Indian National Army (INA) compiled at the behest of the MoD in 1950 was turned down despite a favourable directive from the CIC. The MoD got a stay from the High Court.

Law permits

India has laws that deal with classification and disclosure of public records, but these seem subject to arbitrary interpretation. For example, Section 12 (1) of the Public Records Act, 1993, mandates that “All unclassified public records as are more than 30 years old and are transferred to the National Archives of India or the Archives of the Union Territory may be, subject to such exceptions and restrictions as may be prescribed, made available to any bona fide research scholar”. On the other hand Rule 5 of the Public Records Rules, 1997, mandates that “The Director General or Head of the Archives, as the case may be, shall accept for deposit and preservation public records of permanent nature which have been retained after recording by the records creating agency in its records room for the last 25 years or more.”

The second problem pertains to writing of military histories and the fact that unlike the US and the UK, governments in India are not votaries of recording histories. No official history was commissioned for Operation Pawan, the controversial tri-service Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) operations in Sri Lanka (1987-1990) or even of the more successful tri-service Operation Cactus in Maldives (1988). The same holds true for Operation Bluestar (Golden Temple, 1984) and Operation Meghdoot (Siachen, 1984) and many more such operations that the Indian armed forces have been engaged in and from which useful lessons could be derived.

Even the war histories of the 1962, 1965 and 1971 wars were written between 17 and 32 years after these wars had ended — in 1990, 1992 and 1988, respectively — by which time a large number of books, many of them authored by officers who had participated in these wars, had already been published.

The way of the West

In contrast, both the US and the UK have a strong tradition of quickly commissioning studies and histories. The British, which first publicly revealed the existence of its internal intelligence agency, the MI5, and the external intelligence agency, the MI6, only in the early 1990s, have gone to the extent of getting the two agencies’ official histories written in 2009 and 2010, respectively. In India it is unthinkable for the government to ever commission the writing of the official history of the Intelligence Bureau or the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), the country’s internal and external intelligence agencies, respectively.

Despite the controversy and criticism surrounding the British support to the US in the Iraq War, former British Prime Minister Gordon Brown ordered a public inquiry into Britain’s role in that war. Termed as the Iraq Inquiry, former civil servant John Chilcot was mandated to examine Britain’s involvement in Iraq between mid-2001 and July 2009 to determine what happened and to identify lessons to ensure that in a similar situation in future, the British government is equipped to respond in the most effective manner. The inquiry concluded in February 2011 and its report scheduled to be released this year.

In 1967, even while the Vietnam War was on, US Defence Secretary Robert Strange McNamara commissioned a study by the Department of Defense of the US’ political involvement in Vietnam from 1945 to 1967 with the purpose of writing an encyclopaedic history of the Vietnam War. A Vietnam Study Task Force in June 1967 produced a history of the US’ involvement in that country spanning 47 volumes, 15 of which came to be known as the Pentagon Papers. The papers, that were soon after leaked to the media and eventually in June 2011 declassified, established that President Lyndon B Johnson’s Administration had systematically lied not only to the public but also the Congress, and that the US had secretly enlarged the scale of the Vietnam War with the bombings of nearby Cambodia and Laos and coastal raids on North Vietnam.

Even the highly security conscious Israelis have been forthcoming in commissioning reports. Two examples should suffice. Barely a month after the end of the 16-day Yom Kippur war with Egypt in 1973, the Israeli cabinet appointed a commission to probe intelligence and deployment of the Israeli Defence Forces. The report was submitted in April 1974, partially declassified a year later in 1975, and fully declassified 20 years later in April 1994. Relatively more recently, on January 30, 2008, Israel published the final report of an inquiry instituted into Israel’s war against the Hizbollah in Lebanon in 2006. The 629-page report found “grave failings” among both the political and military leaders and even censured Prime Minister Ehud Olmert who had testified before the inquiry.

Commissioning and publishing war histories is crucial to draw lessons for any modern and progressive military and also for assisting policy-makers, diplomats, and military historians to similarly draw lessons. It makes little sense for the government to be so cautious and paranoid. It could start with making public the 1962, 1965 and 1971 war histories in addition to the Henderson Brooks report. It could also add to the list the report of the BS Raghavan Committee on the allegations of intelligence failure during the 1965 India-Pakistan War and the report of the K Sankaran Nair Committee constituted in the early 1980s to recommend the restructuring of the cadre of the RAW. Else, the adage ‘those who do not learn from history are condemned to repeat it’ could forever remain true for the Indian military establishment and policy makers.


October 1950: Chinese troops cross the Sino-Tibetan boundary and move towards Lhasa

April 1954: Pact on trade and intercourse between India and Tibet region of China signed by Nehru and Chinese PM Zhou-en-lai

May 1954: China and India sign Panchsheel

June 1954: Zhou visits India for the first time

March 1955: India objects to inclusion of a portion of its northern frontier in China map

November 1956: Zhou visits India on a goodwill mission

September 1958: India objects to the inclusion of a big chunk of northern Assam, NEFA in China Pictorial

January 1959: Zhou claims over 40,000 sq miles of Indian territory in Ladakh, NEFA

April 1959: Dalai Lama escapes from Lhasa to India

August 1959: Chinese troops open fire on Indian picket near Migyitun in eastern Ladakh, killing a soldier; also overrun the Indian outpost at Longju in north-eastern Ladakh

September 1959: China refuses to accept McMahon Line; lays claims to 50,000 sq miles in Sikkim, Bhutan

October 1959: Chinese troops fire on Indian patrol in Aksai Chin area, killing nine soldiers and capturing 10

April 1960: Meeting in New Delhi between Zhou, Nehru ends in deadlock

February 1961: China occupies 12,000 sq miles in the western sector

October 1961: China starts aggressive border patrolling

December 1961: India establishes border outposts

April 1962: China demands withdrawal of Indian frontier personnel from border posts

September 1962: Chinese forces cross McMahon Line in Thag La region in the east, open fire on Indian post; launch another attack

October 1962: China launches massive multi-pronged attack along border from Ladakh to Arunachal

November 1962: Chinese attack on eastern front; Tawang, Walong in eastern sector overrun; Rezang La, Chushul airport shelled

November 18, 1962: Chinese troops capture Bomdi La in NEFA region

November 21, 1962: China declares ceasefire

Official histories not released

  • October-November 1962 Sino-Indian War
  • April and September 1965 India-Pakistan wars
  • December 1971 India-Pakistan war


  • Official War History of the 1947-48 Kashmir war with Pakistan (in 1989)
  • The Kargil Review Committee Report on the May-July 1999 Kargil War (in 2000).

No official history commissioned

  • Operation Pawan (IPKF in Sri Lanka, 1987-1990)
  • Operation Cactus in Maldives (1988)
  • Operation Bluestar (Golden Temple, 1984)
  • Operation Meghdoot (Siachen, 1984).




‘Declassification late’

The report should have been declassified long ago. Such documents have to be declassified after a specified time limit or else how will we improve? There were many lessons to be learnt at the policy and military levels. I have read it as the Chief (between October 1997 and September 2000) and was about to recommend its declassification to the Ministry of Defence when a controversy broke out over the remarks of then Defence Minister George Fernandes about China. It was held back. I wrote on the file that every personal staff officer must read the report.

Gen VP Malik (retd), former army chief

‘Assess China threat’

I have never understood why we are afraid of declassifying the report. It indicts the military and political class for the debacle in 1962. I have seen action as a Major posted north of Joshimath in Uttarakhand. No one has tried to analyse if the lessons learnt from the 1962 event have been corrected even today. The nation ought to know about this and there is no cause of any fright. Let us study the report in detail and assess the threat we face along the boundary with China.

Lt Gen PN Hoon (retd), former western army commander and dgmo

‘No tactical value’

The report has no tactical or strategic plan even after 52 years. I do not agree with the government that the report held tactical value. It should be immediately declassified. Everything is out in the open in form of various books. The sections of the report are posted on websites and reported in the media. As the DGMO (in the mid 1990s), on being asked by the Ministry of Defence, I had recommended that it should be declassified. Not just this report, there must be a detailed history of every war the nation has seen.

Lt Gen Vijay Oberoi (retd), former army vice-chief and dgmo

‘Why hide facts?’

We cannot kick this report under the locker, let it be public. Let people discuss it threadbare. 1962 was a blunder and a failure of planning. If declassified, perhaps we will learn some useful lessons. Whom are we trying to hide the facts from? It was a failure to wrongly assess the Chinese strength and they build up in the Northeast. I had flown on reconnaissance missions east of Kibithoo and Walong and reported the buildup.

Air Marshal Randhir Singh (retd), who flew sorties in the east in 1962

‘Can’t bury the future’

If we have to learn the right lesson from history we cannot bury the future because of this history. The report needs to be declassified and discussed in the public immediately. It was a national issue and the whole country must know how policy and planning failed. The time is right to declassify it. It shall reveal if any issues of 1962 are still prevailing and if there is need to correct them.

Maj Gen GG Dwivedi (retd), former defence attaché to china

Compiled by Ajay Banerjee



Men on the spot

VK Krishna Menon

A brilliant but waspish man, he was also the Prime Minister’s blind spot. As Defence Minister since 1957 he was an unmitigated disaster, insulting service chiefs, playing favourites in military promotions and politicising the professional Indian Army. He believed China would never attack India.

BN Mullik

Then serving as the Director of Intelligence Bureau, his role was massive but malignant. If instead of interfering with the making of policy, he would have done his job of gathering intelligence on China, India would not have been taken by surprise and might have even escaped humiliation.

Gen PN Thapar

The Army Chief at the time of the was, he did not want to cross Menon’s path and was too timid even to overrule his subordinate commander in charge of the operations on the northeast and Menon’s hottest favourite Lt Gen BM Kaul, even when he was woefully wrong.

Lt Gen BM Kaul

Although Kaul, then GOC 4 Corps, was a first-rate military bureaucrat and a man of exceptional dynamism excelled only by his ambition, he had absolutely no experience of combat. Despite being seriously ill and being evacuated to Delhi, Menon ordered that he continue to be in command of the battlefield from his sickbed.

Lt Gen Henderson Brooks

Commanding 11 Corps at Jalandhar, he was told to look into the reverses of the Army. He submitted his report in 1963. He could not analyse the MoD and Army dynamics as he had no access to defence ministry records. He also failed to examine the ‘interference’ in military issues by VK Krishna Menon.



Sordid tale of dysfunction, humiliation
By Dinesh Kumar

With the confusion over the border with China as confounding as ever, India and China have agreed to showing each other this message and backing off to avoid confrontation
With the confusion over the border with China as confounding as ever, India and China have agreed to showing each other this message and backing off to avoid confrontation. Tribune file photo: Mukesh Aggarwal

THE Henderson Brooks Report, as released on the Web by Neville Maxwell, an octogenarian Australian and former India correspondent of The Times, London, brings out a sad and humiliating tale of how ill-prepared, ill-equipped and outnumbered Army formations were pushed into fighting a 33-day war against a formidable adversary from October 20 to November 21, 1962. This occurred despite sound intelligence and military appreciation being available.

The report, or Operations Review, presents a sordid tale of how Army formations, including an entire divisional headquarters (4 Infantry Division) along with some its brigades and infantry battalions simply disintegrated or fled the scene of battle and how areas held by the Army fell like nine pins to China’s advancing battle-hardened Peoples Liberation Army (PLA).

The report is replete with examples of inadequate reinforcements or reinforcements simply not being there; of Army formations being scattered in penny packets; and formations being issued impossible orders in the absence of adequate manpower and equipment. Overall, it is a tale of serious disconnect between the tasks and the resources available, between the headquarters and the formation commanders, and between formation commanders and their troops on the ground. It promises to remain among the best examples of politico-military dysfunction and mismanagement at its worst in recent history.

A partial glimpse

It is, however, necessary to mention that the report, as released by Neville Maxwell, has its limitations and cannot be taken as the final word on the 1962 Sino-Indian War. Firstly, the report has been not been released in its entirety. Only a total of 126 pages have been released. Missing are three vital portions of the report – (i) the fourth and final chapter which deals with conclusions that bring out the salient factors and actions that led to the Army’s reverses, and lessons derived from them; (ii) a total of 64 pages within the 190 pages that have been released on the website (pages 20 to 29, page 35, pages 104 to 110, pages 112 to 157, and page 187); and (iii) all annexures referred to in the report. This gives rise to two questions: (a) Is this report a draft copy or is it indeed the final version? (b) Since the entire report has not been posted on the website, is Maxwell holding back or was he given only selective portions of the report? In either case, why so and to what purpose?

Secondly, both Lt General Thomas Bryan Henderson Brooks, who was commanding the Jalandhar-based XI Corps, and Brig (later lt general) Premindra Singh Bhagat were tasked only to look at training, equipment, system of command, physical fitness of the troops and capability of the commanders at all levels. The report is thus seriously limited by the fact that the functioning of the Army Headquarters and the relationship between the Army Headquarters and the Ministry of Defence (MoD) did not form part of its mandate.

Of considerable interest would be the discussions and debate that took place among the members of the Cabinet Committee on Political Affairs (CCPA), as it was then known, comprising the Prime Minister, Defence Minister, External Affairs Minister, Home Minister and the Finance Minister along with the Army Chief, the Intelligence Bureau Chief and other top officials concerned. A number of books authored by retired Army officers who participated in the war, then Intelligence Bureau (IB) chief BN Mullick and other commentators have shed some light. But an authenticated honest account is needed to get to the complete truth.

All reference to the Army Headquarters and the MoD in the Henderson report is based on communications received by formations on the ground and earlier reports prepared by the Military Intelligence, of which Brigadier Bhagat had, a year prior to the war, himself been the director. Hence, references to the Army Headquarters and the MoD will have to be viewed in keeping with the above limitations.

Thirdly, the Operations Review quite naturally does not look at the bigger picture of whether the government should have deployed the Indian Air Force, which was kept out of the war other than to ferry troops and equipment; the gradual downslide in Sino-Indian relations and the behind-the-scene discussions at the diplomatic level; and the equations at play between India and the US, India and the former Soviet Union and between China and the Soviet Union.

The report, divided into four chapters, has examined the developments and operations under three specific zones – developments and operations as viewed by the Western Command (Ladakh sector); developments up to the outbreak of hostilities in NEFA, or the North-East Frontier Agency (now Arunachal Pradesh), that fell under the Army’s Eastern Command; and the operations in NEFA entrusted with the Army’s IV Corps including, where applicable, the command and control exercised at various levels from the Army Headquarters downwards.

IV Corps, which is the only corps to have been singled out for a specific review as a chapter in the report, was headed by Lt General Brij Mohan Kaul, a distant relative of Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, who had been promoted against the recommendations of the Army and who belonged to the Army Service Corps (ASC), a non-fighting arm. Lt General Kaul, who was airlifted to Delhi at the start of the war due to illness, had retained his command and continued to give orders from his sickbed over 2,000 km away, a rare occurrence in war. Prior to his being appointed Corps Commander, Lt General Kaul, who has been specifically mentioned in the report, held the vital (and since abolished) post of Chief of General Staff (CGS) which was entrusted with the critical task of planning and operations.

Forward Policy

The report clearly blames India’s ‘Forward Policy’ for provoking the Chinese to launch attacks on Indian positions without adequate preparation on the ground. For this, it blames not just politicians (the reference is to Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, although he has not been named), but equally the top Army brass, more specifically Lt General Kaul during his tenure as CGS, for failing to make the appropriate military appreciation. This was despite a special operational instruction issued three years earlier on September 1, 1959, to maintain status quo and to avoid provocative action in spite of the Chinese having only five days earlier (August 26) overrun an Indian post in Longju in Ladakh, which had led to militarily upsetting status quo on the Indo-Tibetan border.

But it is not that the Army, and through that the government, was unaware of the ground situation. The Military Intelligence in a review (1959-1960) had pointed to substantial increase in China’s military build-up. The Army’s Western Command had brought out in August 1962 ‘in no uncertain manner the dangerous situation that had developed’. And even the General Staff, according to Lt General Kaul, ‘had advised the government of deficiencies in equipment, manpower and logistics support, which would seriously prejudice our position in the event of a Chinese attack’.

The report interestingly quotes Lt General Kaul as stating that “in a number of meetings held by the Defence Minister and attended by the Army Chief, himself as the CGS, the IB director and representatives of the Defence, External Affairs, and Home Ministries, the general view was that the Chinese would not provoke a showdown. The orders were given by the General Staff in December 1961 for implementing the ‘Forward Policy’ without the prerequisite of ‘major bases’ for restoring a military situation, as laid down by the government”.

The report says the ‘Forward Policy’ was primarily for Ladakh, but in its wake there had to be a probe forward in NEFA. “Once we disturbed the status quo in one theatre, we should have been militarily prepared in both to back up our policy. Time and again, the Eastern Command had asked for two more brigades for NEFA…. The fact, however, remains that the General Staff should not have allowed themselves to be pushed into a military adventure, without the requisite forces,” states the report. It goes on to sadly conclude: “The hardship and privations suffered by the men, however, had an important bearing on morale and leadership. No troops placed in the circumstances as they were could be expected to obey orders, let alone fight. It is unplanned actions like these carried out in haste and hurry that changed disciplined men into rabble, and an Army into a mob”.

Leadership failure

The summary of the operations in NEFA is among the most telling. Some 2,500 soldiers belonging to the 4 Division Headquarters vanished within a matter of minutes ‘due to lack of centralised leadership and control in the face of the enemy’, following which Bomdila fell to the Chinese. 5 Guards, an Infantry battalion, which was solely ordered against all odds to stem a Chinese attack heading for Bomdila, was outnumbered and fought till the last ammunition before it eventually disintegrated. Similarly, 62 Infantry Brigade disintegrated and Seia was abandoned.

All this and more were due to a combination of factors that ranged from the conspicuous absence of planning and provision of logistic support, interference at the tactical level and failures at the higher levels ranging from the General Staff Headquarters, the Eastern Command, the Corps Headquarters and the Division Headquarters. Simply put, it was error after error and failure after failure at the higher echelons of the political executive, Intelligence and the Army. The only heroes were undoubtedly the many hundred young officers and soldiers who died fighting while trying their best to hold their positions in the absence of sound military leadership, which was limited to a few senior Army officers on the ground.



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