Military & Aerospace

Why Henderson Brooks Report Cannot be De-classified
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Issue Net Edition | Date : 14 Jul , 2013

Mules carrying ammunition over a mountain pass during 1962 War

Claude Arpi’s demand to release the Henderson Brooks report is akin to Julian Assange and Edward Snowden seeking asylum in India. Understandably, Wikileaks disclosures of black money stashed abroad by Indians had sent many personalities scurrying for cover. There was flurry of movement to foreign lands, personal jets, and chartered planes, jets lent by birds of same flock, unexplained mysterious absences and what have you. Now that there is some measure of relief, Julian Assange wants asylum here. Where is the guarantee that he will not release another list disclosing how the black money has been siphoned out, to which new destinations, how much has been surreptitiously routed back to India, by whom, and into which developmental, private construction or other projects. Edward Snowden is even bigger threat. That he is already in league with Julian is an established fact, implying Julian can always leak information through Edward. But the bigger threat is what information Edward has swiped from the US NSA’s Prism. Although our Foreign Minister has certified “no data has been stolen” from the Indian Embassy in Washington DC, his own subordinates are not convinced of his credentials as cyber expert. So getting back to Edward Snowden, God knows what secrets this guy may leak out given that even Obama appears so shaken up.

When did the Government of India start seeking military advice on strategic security issues? As to Claude pointing out that the report only generally points out to lack of political direction, which report in India ever has indicted individuals in power?

Claude has quoted Neville Maxwell in questioning that even if Jawaharlal Nehru emerges in in bad light in the Henderson Brooks Report, why should it be kept in wraps in a modern democracy like India. He also writes that in 2008, Defense Minister, Mr AK Antony told the Indian Parliament that the Henderson Brooks could not be declassified. Mr Antony claimed that the report could not be made public because an internal study by the Indian Army had established that its contents “are not only extremely sensitive but are of current operational value.” When did the Government of India start seeking military advice on strategic security issues? As to Claude pointing out that the report only generally points out to lack of political direction, which report in India ever has indicted individuals in power?

Claude Arpi has quoted the Henderson Brooks Report in saying, “No major security threat other than from Pakistan was perceived. And the armed forces were regarded adequate to meet Pakistan’s threat. Hence very little effort and resources were put in for immediate strengthening of the security of the borders.” What stands obfuscated was this was ‘whose appreciation’; political appreciation, military appreciation, individual appreciation? Perhaps there could have been no one better to warn Nehru of China’s intentions and in no better form than Sardar Patel’s strategic advice through his letter dated 7th November 1950, excerpts of which are as follows:

“…We have to consider what new situation now faces us as a result of the disappearance of Tibet, as we knew it, and the expansion of China almost up to our gates. Throughout history we have seldom been worried about our north-east frontier. The Himalayas have been regarded as an impenetrable barrier against any threat from the north. We had a friendly Tibet which gave us no trouble. …..Chinese irredentism and communist imperialism are different from the expansionism or imperialism of the western powers. The former has a cloak of ideology which makes it ten times more dangerous. In the guise of ideological expansion lie concealed racial, national or historical claims. The danger from the north and north-east, therefore, becomes both communist and imperialist…….for the first time, after centuries, India’s defence has to concentrate itself on two fronts simultaneously….. we shall now have to reckon with communist China in the north and in the north-east, a communist China which has definite ambitions and aims and which does not, in any way, seem friendly disposed towards us…….”

Krishna Menon attended a war game conducted by the military in Lucknow in 1961 that assessed how the Chinese would attack, which was exactly the way it happened in 1962, but Krishna Menon rubbished it totally.

But, what was the military appreciation about the Chinese threat? It is well known that both Nehru and Krishna Menon remained convinced China would not attack us. Krishna Menon attended a war game conducted by the military in Lucknow in 1961 that assessed how the Chinese would attack, which was exactly the way it happened in 1962, but Krishna Menon rubbished it totally. More significantly, in 1962 (the very year of the Sino-Indian War), Krishna Menon addressed the National Defence College in Delhi and when queried about the possibility of China attacking India, shouted at the audience to shut up saying if such was the thinking of the students, then the NDC should be shut down. This incidentally, is available on audiotape.

The 1954 Panchsheel Agreement with China gave Nehru visions of everlasting peace. UNSC seat offered to India was magnanimously given away to China. Demonstrators urged Nehru to take a firm stand towards Chinese violations of the Indian border during Zhou-en-Lai’s visit to India in 1960 but Zhou-en-Lai cunningly sang peace lullabies that were lapped up by Nehru. Krishna Menon had the distinction of orchestrating the first defence deals scandal in independent India by making money through manipulating prices of jeeps being imported for the army while Nehru made the first move, in what in today’s parlance is termed as fiddling with the institutional integrity of the military, by appointing his blue eyed General , BM Kaul (an Army Supply Corps officer) to head the Corps facing the Chinese battlefront.

Historians agree that Zhou-en-Lai’s guile completely outwitted Nehru. Nehru’s neglect of military, utopian belief that China and India could live peacefully with open borders and not recognizing that economic growth and national security is symbiotic, ignored Pant’s advice. Military preparedness continued to be wholly neglected. Nehru continued to support China’s control over Tibet (an autonomous region) without reciprocal commitment from China regarding status of the Sino-India boundary. AG Noorani in his recent book ‘Two Sides of Nehru’ says that it was Nehru who “shut the door to negotiations on the (India-China) boundary on 1st July 1954″ and his refusal to negotiate plus the 1960 rebuff to Chou-en-Lai…. may well have sowed the seeds of the 1962 India-China war.

We fought a superior enemy in 1962 not because of the size of China but because we lacked strategic forethought, were unable to read the enemy, had poor political and military leadership, latter more because of the inexperienced BM Kaul thrust  by Nehru as the Corps Commander.

What happened in 1962 is well known including Nehru’s missive to throw the Chinese out of Thagla Ridge. We fought a superior enemy in 1962 not because of the size of China but because we lacked strategic forethought, were unable to read the enemy, had poor political and military leadership, latter more because of the inexperienced BM Kaul thrust  by Nehru as the Corps Commander. To say that the army was poorly armed, equipped and trained would be an understatement, for Nehru believed he only needed police forces along the border with China. That the army had to fight in canvas shoes, sans winter clothing at those heights and meager amount of ammunition, should have put the hierarchy to shame. But political loyalty surpasses all other considerations in India. So we have in Delhi a prominent road named Krishna Menon Marg with a bust of him, garlanded every year on his birthday though India feels no need for a war memorial.

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The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

About the Author

Lt Gen Prakash Katoch

is a former Lt Gen Special Forces, Indian Army

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6 thoughts on “Why Henderson Brooks Report Cannot be De-classified

  1. Ignorance and incompetence of Indian Army is appalling. If Katoch really believed mighty Chinese PLA could have been defeated if Indian Army was formed like that stupid wargame in Lucknow, he was not fit to be a general except in Indian Army. One has to question how he got all those promotions. May be he is the best worthless. In warfare, psychological propaganda and rhetoric are integral part. Our own position is glorified as the dharma while enemy is depicted as evil and cunning aggressor. That was the purpose of Nehru’s statement to his nation which was meant for consumption by the enemy as well as countries on sidelines. If a general like Katoch could not understand something so fundamental to warfare even with 55 year hindsight, how credible is this army as a fighting force? Katoch quotes Noorani of Nehru” shut the door to negotiations”. What Noorani was really saying is Chinese were trustworthy with whom Nehru should have negotiated. That is exact opposite of Katoch’s own claim and of Sardar Patel’s. So, why did Katoch stick that quote from Noorani in middle of blaming Nehru for “trusting Chinese”? Because Katoch knows his audience will not know the difference and consume mindlessly. Katoch’s motive is to bad mouth Nehru and demonize the black South Indian Krishna Menon. For 55 years India has seen these incoherent blogs written over and over. For how long will Indians mindlessly consume this nonsense?

  2. Sardar Patel knew nothing outside Gujarat. Katoch gloats about “India coming to know of 11000 Chinese come into POK / Pakistan through a report in New York Times” while he should be ashamed. Katoch’s own claim of “gap between the PLA and Indian Military widening exponentially since 1962” proves all this blame against Nehru and Krishna Menon is motivated either by ignorance by some other hidden agenda. Claims of Nehru “ignoring the military as a factor in nation building” and “Nehru’s disdain for the military” are plain lies. Many Gandhians wanted the Army (that committed atrocities like Jhallianwalabagh) disbanded. Nehru brushed aside those concerns and even gave cabinet ranks to the 3 heads. Krishna Menon modernized the armed forces like no other Defense Minister in the history of India. Under that same Krishna Menon, India defeated (NATO Member) Portugal and liberated Goa in December 1961. Claims of Krishna Menon rubbishing war game in Lucknow in 1961, which (supposedly) was exactly the way it happened in 1962” seems a fantastic story inspired by Schwarzkopf’s “Left Hook”. Katoch obviously does not know the story behind appointing BM Kaul (an Army Supply Corps officer) to head the IV Corps. That “IV Corps” never existed in reality. Neville Maxwell blames the same demonstrations and student demands which led the Nehru government pursue “Forward Policy”. But (per Maxwell) Gen. Umrao Singh refused to comply and hence Kaul had to be dispatched in a hurry. Kaul was in fact called back from personal leave in first week of October. In attempt to avoid ruffling feathers of Umrao Singh and to avoid exposure of Indian Army falling apart, a fictitious IV Corps was engineered and made “in-charge of Forward Policy”. Katoch’s depiction of that desperation as “Kaul being thrust as Corps Commander” is naivete and laughable. As Katoch points out, if Cuban Missile Crisis did not happen, the IV Corps probably would become reality.

  3. Brooks-Bhagat had no authority to investigate political decisions while VK Krishna Menon confirmed that they never interviewed him. Arpi’s claims of Nehru or Krishna Menon “emerging in bad light” are just clever lies. I’m sure Arun Jaitley also hoped for juice but found none and hence refused to declassify in 2014. Gen. Katoch’s slanderous claims of Krishna Menon making money manipulating Jeep prices are immoral and deplorable. If he made such statement about a Punjabi or a Gujarati or a Bengali, by now hell would break loose. Neville Maxwell called Krishna Menon “the only honest Indian”. “..army had to fight in canvas shoes, sans winter clothing at those heights and meager amount of ammunition, should (indeed) put the hierarchy to shame” Is it the job of PM or Defense Minister to dress up the solders and make sure there are bullets in magazines? Maxwell writes that the Airforce dropped the supplies into enemy positions and into gorges and valleys. Why didn’t the Army dress up soldiers properly when they redeployed from Punjab to Se La and Bomdi La? India had money for INS Vikrant and MIGs but not for clothing 5,000 soldiers? For how long will the Army and Airforce refuse to take responsibility and blame the black South Indian? Claim of BM Kaul being made in-charge of NEFA is false. The North Eastern Commander was Gen LP Sen who ranked higher than Kaul. China is founding member of UNSC since 1945. That seat was never offered to India and hence no question of “magnanimously given away to China”. Argument that Nehru should have deployed Airforce is naive. If we lost all the aircraft in 1962, we would be sitting ducks in 1965. Nehru pushed the Chinese back without ever deploying Airforce. Blaming Nehru for not stopping Tibet invasion are even more bizarre. If Indian Army was not ready for China in 1962, how could they be ready in 1950? Who else is supposed to stop them?

  4. VK Krishna Menon is the best Defense Minister India ever had. No number of statues, institutes and memorials of Sardar Patel or Subhas Bose ever suffice for Gujaratis and Bengalis. But a South Indian cannot have a single road named after him nor can anybody garland his statue on his birth anniversary. I’m unsure if generals like Katoch really don’t understand warfare or just spread this myth to fool people. Neville Maxwell never considered Indian Army a serious fighting force against PLA. Neither Noorani nor Maxwell support this theory of “China Attacking India”. They in fact argue other way around. Nehru saying “a powerful and unscrupulous opponent had responded with evil to our good”, was just war rhetoric and for consumption. Claims of Nehru dying a broken man are immoral. Nehru was at his best when things were at their worst. Nehru presided over million deaths each in 1946/47 and largest mass migration in human history. Nobody could be as resilient as Nehru. Despite failure of Army, Nehru stood like a man and faced the challenge. When China occupied Arunachal Pradesh and offered ceasefire, Nehru flatly declined and vowed to fight. China had to back down and retreat to pre-war position. When enemy retreats any other nation claims victory. Only Indians can insist they were defeated and humiliated.

  5. Excellent article by Gen Prakash Katoch. Our political leaders especially Nehru, Menon and some others never liked the Army and totally ignored the professional advice by Gen Thimayya and Lt Gen Thorat who in the mid 1950s had warned Nehru that the PRC-PLA posed the real and potent threat to our security. Thimayya had recommended that Thorat, a thorough professional and very able general should take over from him. But, Thapar was appointed the COAS in mid 1961 since he was a pliant general and lacking moral courage to stand up to Nehru and Menon. It was our misfortune to have Thapar and Kaul at the apex of Army hierarchy. Naturally, we got clobbered by PLA in the 1962 War. Am sure had Manekshaw or a general of his abilities and moral courage been at the helm in 1962 we would have given a much better account. In the Battle of Walong Oct-Nov ’62, I was part of 11 Mtn Bde and fought at Trijunction (13500 feet). The atrocious and shocking misdirection of the War by the political and military high command along with lessons learnt has been covered briefy in my book THROUGH WARS and INSURGENCY – DIARY OF AN ARMY OFFICER.
    My fear is that in real terms we are even worse off than we were in 1962 vis-a-vis China.

    • Indian Army needs to accept their incompetence sooner or later. Gen Timmayya DID NOT believe PRC-PLA was a threat. To the contrary, Timmayya believed Pakistan to be real enemy and that Aksai Chin had no strategic value for India. In fact the differences between Timmayya and Krishna Menon started when later indeed adopted Thorat’s suggestions. Does anybody in Indian Army even know what happened in 1962? Why did Gen Umrao Singh refuse to forward his troops if there really was such a threat from PRC-PLA? Claim of Thapar/Kaul being in-charge exposes your ignorance. North Eastern Commander in 1962 was Gen LP Sen, the defender of Srinagar (in 1947). Despite pathetic performance of Indian Army, Jawaharlal Nehru stood like a man he was and forced PRC-PLA retreat to pre-war position. When enemy retreats, any other nation claims victory. Only Indian Army can be so clueless to claim defeat and humiliation. Nehru and Krishna Menon bent over backwards to make excuses for Army and Air Force’s incompetence. You in turn betray those great leaders.

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