Confronting a firestorm generated by its position not to declassify the Henderson Brooks report on the 1962 India-China war, the government on Wednesday signalled room for flexibility, by pointing out that the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) could be involved in taking a final call on the subject.
The controversy over the report was triggered by remarks of Defence and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in the Rajya Sabha, while responding to a written question.
Mr. Jaitley said the release of the report “fully or partially or disclosure of any information related to this report would not be in national interest”. The government’s position contrasts sharply with the BJP’s stance, espoused strongly by Mr. Jaitley, ahead of the general elections, that the report should be de-classified.
In a blog post in March, Mr. Jaitley had said, “Any society is entitled to learn from the past mistakes and take remedial action. With the wisdom of hindsight, I am of the opinion that the report’s content could have been made public some decades ago. Was the Himalayan blunder of 1962 in fact a Nehruvian blunder? Are we willing to learn the lessons from 1962?”
Government sources told The Hindu that while Mr. Jaitley had on earlier occasions suggested that the report must be declassified, he was now bound by the institutional wisdom on the issue which was against declassification.
“It is not about his personal opinion. The Army is against it, the Ministry is against it, and there have been more than one Cabinet decision not to declassify it. The Defence Minister cannot unilaterally decide to declassify it,” he said.
Australian-British writer Neville Maxwell, whose 1970 book India’s China War , apparently using material from the classified report, had pinned the blame for the 1962 debacle on New Delhi’s “forward policy.”
He had posted portions of the document on the Internet in March, but Mr. Jaitley in his blog had called for a full de-classification of the report beyond the 111 pages that had been made public.
Congress’s reaction Congress spokesperson Abhishek Manu Singhvi accused the government of hypocrisy and doublespeak. “You now realise that responsibility and accountability should be exercised as much when you are in Opposition as when you are in the saddle. The vociferous demand for disclosure then is matched by an equally vigorous but double-faced denial now,” Mr. Singhvi said.