Earlier bid to make Henderson report public blocked: Maxwell

Updated - November 16, 2021 07:29 pm IST

Published - March 18, 2014 01:43 am IST - BEIJING:

The still-classified Henderson Brooks Report, a large section of which has been made public, does not include the second volume and annexures, which contain damning correspondence between army commands and Delhi. The mandate of the report itself was limited to an operational review, and not political decision-making.

The report details a comprehensive operational review of India’s military debacle in 1962.

The Indian government’s reluctance to declassify parts of the report even 50 years after the war has been criticised by many scholars, who say the move has prevented a transparent and comprehensive understanding of what led to the 1962 conflict, beyond the narrative of a “surprise betrayal” that was subsequently entrenched by the Nehru government, ignoring India's failures.

“Ultimately the buck stops always at the Prime Minister's office,” said Zorawar Daulet Singh, a scholar at King's College London who has written on the war and has read through the volume released by Australian journalist Neville Maxwell on his website.

He said the report revealed that the Army “could have put its foot down and prevented the execution of a militarily unsound policy”. He also said he did not believe the report in any way had “operational value” or endangered national security — the official reason for keeping the report classified — and pointed out most Western countries, including even the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, declassified documents after a period of three or more decades.

The four chapters show there were many assessments from commanders on the ground to Delhi, which, if considered by the Nehru government, would have led to a revision of the Forward Policy and averted the catastrophic military debacle.

Mr. Maxwell said his attempts to make public the report had been blocked on a number of occasions, starting with an attempt to donate his copy to Oxford’s Bodleian library. He said he had also offered it to several Indian editors, who declined.

“Although surprised by this reaction, unusual in the age of WikiLeaks, I could not argue with their reasoning,” he said. “So my dilemma continued — although with the albatross hung, so to speak, on Indian necks as well as my own. As I see it now I have no option but, rather than leave the dilemma to my heirs, to put the Report on the internet myself.”

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