Military & Aerospace

Statement by the Defence Minister regarding NEFA enquiry, New Delhi Sep 2, 1963
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Issue Book Excerpt: Unsung Battles of 1962 | Date : 02 Nov , 2015

Appendix ‘N’ (Refer to Page 471)

The Defence Minister Shri Y.B. Chavan, made the following statement in the Lok Sabha:

1.  Sir, I wish to inform the House of the results of the enquiry to investigate our reverses in the operations occasioned by the Chinese aggression across our northern borders during the months of October-November 1962.

2. Though the officers appointed to enquire into these reverse were asked to examine the operations with particular reference to the Kameng Division of NEFA, they quite rightly came to the conclusion that the developments in NEFA were closely .co-related to those in Ladakh and their study of NEFA operation had to be carried out in conjuction with developments and operations in the Ladakh sector. Thus, the enquiry made and the conclusions emerging from it are results of study into the entire operation on our northern borders.

3. As I had informed the House on 1st April, in reply to a question in the Lok Sabha, that with my approval the Chief of Army Staff had ordered a thorough investigation to be carried out to find as to what was wrong with:

  1. Our training;
  2. Our equipment;
  3. Our system of command;
  4. the physical fitness of our troops; and
  5. the capacity of our Commanders at all levels to influence the men under them.

4. While conveying to the house the terms of reference of this enquiry. I had made it clear that the underlying idea in holding this enquiry is to derive military lessons. It was meant to bring out clearly what were the mistakes or deficiencies in the past, so as to ensure that in future such mistakes are not repeated and such deficiencies are quickly made up, Consequently, the enquiring officers had to study in great and intimate detail extent of our preparedness at the time the planning and strategic concepts behind it and the way those plans were adjusted in the course of operations. This also necessitated the examination of the developments and events prior to hostilities as also the plans, posture and the strength of the Army at the outbreak of hostility. In the course of the enquiry a very detailed review of the actual operations in both the sectors had to be carried out with reference to terrain strategy tactics and deployment of our troops.

5. The conclusions drawn at the end of the report flow from examination of all these matters in great detail. In these circumstance I am sure, the House would appreciate that by the very nature of the contents it would not be in the public interest to lay the report on the table of the House. Nor it is possible to attempt even an abridged or edited version of it, consistent with the consideration of security, that would not give an unbalanced or incomplete picture to you.

6. I have given deep thought to this matter and it is with great regret that I have to withhold this document from this august House. The publication of this report which contains information about the strength and development of our Forces and their locations would be of invaluable use to our enemies. It would not only endanger our security but affect the morale of those entrusted with safeguarding the security of our borders.

MAIN CONCLUSIONS

7. Before I turn to the main conclusions of this enquiry may I bring to the notice of the House, that I had already made clear, that this enquiry is the type of enquiry which the Prime Minister had in mind when he promised such an enquiry to the House in November 1962 into the state of military unpreparedness to meet the Chinese invasion. I would; like 1:0 assure the House that we had at the outset made it clear to those who were entrusted with this enquiry, and they in turn made it clear to the persons whom found necessary to examine, that our main intention was to derive lessons to help in our future preparedness and not in any way to undertake a witch-hunt into the culpabilities of those who were concerned with or took part in these operations. This was absolutely essential to get a full factual picture of the situation as it obtained in October November 1962. I may specially mention this to remind the House that in considering these matters, we should never miss the proper sense of perspective or say or do things which could only give heart to the enemy and demoralise our own men. I have no doubt that the House would wish to ensure this spirit to be maintained.

8. The enquiring officers submitted their report to the Chief of Army Staff on 12th May 1963. After obtaining some complementary information the Chief of Army Staff submitted this report along with his comments to me on 2nd July, Considering the enormous mass of details that had to be gone into with meticulous care by the enquiring officers, as I have my self seen. I would consider that the report has been completed with commendable speed.

TRAINING OF JAWANS

9. The first question in the terms of reference was whether our training was found wanting.

The enquiry has revealed that our basic training was sound and soldiers adapted themselves to the mountains adequately. It is admitted that the training of our troops did not have orientation towards operations vis-a-vis the particular terrain in which the troops had to operate. Our training of the troops did not have a slant for a war being launched by China. Thus our troops had no requisite knowledge of the Chinese tactics, and ways of war, their weapons, equipment and capabilites. Knowledge of the enemy helps to build up confidence and morale, so essential to the Jawan on the front.

10. The enquiry has revealed that there is certainly need for toughening and battle inoculation. It is, therefore, essential that battle schools are opened at training centres and formations, so that gradual toughening and battle inoculation can be carried out.

11. It has also revealed that the main aspect of training as well as the higher Commanders’ concept of mountain warfare requires to be put right.

12. Training alone, however, without correct leadership will pay little dividends. Thus the need of the moment, above all else, is training in leadership.

SHORTAGE OF EQUIPMENT

13. The second question was about our equipment. The enquiry has confirmed that there was indeed an overall shortage of equipment both for training and during operations. But it was not always the case that particular equipment was not available at all with the armed forces anywhere m the country. The crucial difficulty in many cases was that, while the equipment could be reached to the last point in the plains or even beyond it, it was another matter to reach it in time, mostly by air or by animal or by human transport to the forward formations, who took the brunt of fighting. This position of logistics was aggravated by two factors:

  1. The fast rate at which troops had to be inducted, mostly from plains to high mountain areas; and
  2. Lack of properly built roads and other means of communication.

14. This situation was aggravated and made worse because of overall shortage as far as vehicles were concerned and as our fleet was too old and its efficiency not adequate for operating on steep gradients and mountain terrain.

15. Thus, in brief, though the enquiry revealed overall shortage of equipment, it has also revealed that our weapons were adequate to fight the Chinese and compare favourably with theirs. The automatic rifle would have helped in the cold climate and is being introduced. The enquiry has pinpointed the need to make up deficiency in equipment, particularly suited for mountain warfare, but more so to provide means and modes of communication to make it available to the troops at the right place at the right time. Work on these lines has already been taken in hand and is progressing vigorously.

SYSTEM OF COMMAND

16. The third question is regarding our system of command within the Armed Forces. The enquiry has revealed that there is basically nothing wrong with the system and chain of command, provided it is exercised in accepted manner at various levels. There is. However, need for realisation of responsibilities at various levels, which must work with trust and confidence in each other. It is also revealed that during the operations, difficulties arose only when there was departure from accepted chain of command. There again, such departure occurred mainly due to haste and lack of adequate prior planning.

17. The enquiry has also revealed the practice that crept in the higher Army formations of interfering in tactical details even to the extent of detailing troops for specified tasks. It is tl1f: duty of Commanders in the field to make on-the-spot decisions, when so required, and details of operations ought to have been left to them.

PHYSICAL FITNESS OF TROOPS

18. The fourth question is of physical fitness of our troops. It is axiomatic that an unacclimatised army cannot be as fit as one which is. The enquiry has revealed that, despite this, our troops both officers and men, stood the rigours of the climate, although most of them were rushed at short notice from plains. Thus in brief, troops were physically, fit in every way for their normal tasks, but they were not acclimatised to fight at the heights at which some of them were asked to make a stand. Where acclimatisation had taken place, such as in Ladakh, the height factor presented no difficulty, Among some middle-age-group officers. There, had been deterioration in standards of physical fitness. This is a matter which is being rectified. The physical fitness among junior officers was good and is now even better.

CAPACITY OF COMMANDERS

19. The fifth point in the terms of reference was about the capacity of the Commanders at all levels during these operations to influence the men under their command. By and large, it has been found that the general standard amongst the junior officers was fair. At unit level there were good and mediocre Commanding Officers. The proportion of good commanding Officers and not so-good was perhaps the same as obtained in any army in the last World War. At Brigade level, but for the odd exception, Commanders were able to adequately exercise their command. It was at higher levels that shortcomings became more apparent. It was also revealed that some of the higher Commanders did not depend enough on the initiative of the lower Commanders who alone could have the requisite knowledge of the terrain and local conditions of troops under them.

OTHER ASPECTS EXAMINED

20. Apart from these terms of reference, the enquiry went into some other important aspects pertaining to the operations, and I would like to inform the House about this also. This relates to the following three aspects:

  1. Our intelligence;
  2. Our Staff Work and Procedures; and
  3. Our “Higher Direction of Operations”

21. As regards, our system and organisation of intelligence. it would obviously not be proper for me to disclose any details. However, it is known that in the Army Headquarters, there is a Directorate of Intelligence under an officer designated as Director of Military Intelligence, briefly known as DMI.

22. The enquiry has brought out that the collection of intelligence in general was not satisfactory. The acquisition of intelligence was slow and the reporting of it vague.

23. Second important aspect of intelligence is its collection and evaluation. Admittedly, because of the vague nature of intelligence, evaluation may not have been accurate. Thus a clear picture of the Chinese build-up was not made available. No attempt was made to link up the new enemy build­up with the old deployment. Thus field formations had little guidance whether there were fresh troops or old ones moving to new locations.

24. The third aspect is dissemination of intelligence. It has come out that much faster means must be employed to send out processed and important information to field formations, if it is to be of any use.

25. There is no doubt that a major over-hauling of the intelligence system is required. A great deal has been done during the last six months. The overhauling of the intelligence system is a complex and lengthy task and. in view of its vital importance. I am paying personal attention to this.

STAFF WORK AND PROCEDURES

26. Now about our staff work and procedures. There are clear procedures of staff work laid down at all levels. The enquiry has however revealed that much more attention will have to be given, than was done in the past. in the work and procedures of the General Staff at the service Headquarter, as well as in the Command Headquarters and below, to long-term operational planning, including logistics as well as to the problems of co-ordination between various Service Headquarters. So, one major lesson learnt is that the quality of general Staff work, and the depth of its prior planning in time, is going to be one of the most crucial factors in our future preparedness.

DIRECTION OF OPERATIONS

27. That brings me to the next point which is called the higher direction of operations. Even the largest and the best equipped of armies need to be given proper policy guidance and major directives by the Government whose instrument it is. These must bear a reasonable relation to the size of the army and state of its equipment from time to time. An increase in the size or improving the equipment of army costs not only money but also needs them.

LAST YEARS REVERSES

28. The reverses that our Armed Forces admittedly suffered were due to a variety of causes and weaknesses as stated above. While this enquiry has gone deeply into those causes it has also confirmed that the attack was so sudden and in such remote and isolated sectors that the Indian Army as a whole was really not tested. In that period of less than two months last year, only about 24,000 of our troops were actually involved in fighting. Of these, those in Ladakh did an excellent job even when over-whelmed and outnumbered. In the Eastern-most sector, though the troops had to withdraw in the face of vastly superior enemy strength from Walong, they withdrew in an orderly manner and took their toll. It was only in the Kameng Sector that the Army suffered a series of reverses. These battles were fought on our remotest borders and were at heights not known to the Army and at places which geographically had all the disadvantages for our troops and many advantages for the enemy. But such initial reverses are a part of the tides of war and what matters most is who wins the last battle.

THE FOURTH DIVISION

29. Before I end. I would like to add a word about the famous “Fourth Division”, which took part in these operations. It is indeed said that this famous division had to sacrifice its good name in these series of reverses. It is still sadder that this Division during the actual operations was only “Fourth Division” in name, for it was not fighting with its original formations intact. Troops from different formations had to be rushed to the borders to fight under the banner of the “Fourth Division”, while the original formation of the Division itself were deployed elsewhere. I am confident, and I am sure the House would share with me that the famous “Fourth Division” would live to win many more battles if there is any future aggression against our country.

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30. Before I conclude, I would like to mention that we have certainly not waited for this report to be in our hands to take corrective action. The process of taking corrective action had started simultaneously with the institution of this enquiry and the House would recollect that I had informed it of the same.

31. What happened at Sela and Bomdila were severe reverses for us, but we must remember that other countries with powerful defence forces have sometimes suffered in the initial stages of war. The aggressor has a certain advantage, more especially, when the aggression is sudden and well-prepared. We are now on the alert and well on the way of preparedness, and this enquiry while bringing home to us our various weaknesses and mistakes would also help to strengthen our defence preparedness and our entire conduct of such operations.

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Whilst the debate was going on and the Defence Minister had yet to make his reply many allegations were made in the Lok Sabha as well as public about alleged political interference in the operations which was held to be responsible for the reverses. This criticism was based on certain misunderstanding of the facts but yet it was persistent and it was necessary that the misconceptions should be dispelled by a forthright statement in the Lok Sabha, detailing all the facts in their proper perspective to let the country understand the nature of mistakes committed, if any, and then fasten responsibility. Without this, the atmosphere in the country was being vitiated. So, on September, 1963, in the evening, the Cabinet Secretary, Shri Khera met the Prime Minister and suggested to him the necessity of making such a statement He went over all the facts chronologically in his presence to sort out whether there was any political interference in the Army planning.

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