New Delhi: Citing the extreme “sensitive nature” of the contents, the government Tuesday declined to comment on sections of a classified report on the 1962 India-China war that have been posted online.
Sections of the classified Henderson-Brooks report have been put online by Australian journalist Neville Maxwell.
The opposition Bharatiya Janata Party said the report should be released.
The report analysed the causes of India’s humiliating defeat in the 1962 border war against China and allegedly put the blame on the then government of prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru and the military leadership for India’s defeat.
In a statement, the defence ministry said it has “come across news reports which state that an Australian journalist, Neville Maxwell, has put out sections allegedly from the Henderson Brooks Report on the India-China conflict of 1962”.
“Given the extremely sensitive nature of the contents of the report, which are of current operational value, it is reiterated that the government of India has classified this report as a ‘Top Secret’ document and, as such, it would not be appropriate to comment on the contents uploaded by Neville Maxwell on the web,” it said.
The report, authored by Lt. Gen. Henderson Brooks and Brig. P.S. Bhagat, reportedly details military and political blunders by India that led to the defeat.
Maxwell reportedly got a copy of the report and wrote a book called “India’s China War”. He has put out sections of the report on the web.
The online disclosure of the report came at an odd time for the government which is battling an aggressive opposition in the run up to Lok Sabha elections, which start early next month and continue in May.
BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad said people had a right to know what went wrong and alleged that the country lost the war “because of Nehru.”
“What are they trying to hide by making the war report classified,” Prasad asked.
While the report may not contain significantly new revelations about the poor state of India’s forces during the war, it discusses “how the Army was ordered to challenge the Chinese military to a conflict it could only lose,” according to Maxwell, a retired foreign correspondent who was based in Delhi at the time of the war.
As late as April 2010, defence minister AK Antony told Parliament that the contents of the report are “not only extremely sensitive but are of current operational value.”
Maxwell, who wrote a controversial account of the reasons that led to India’s defeat in his work, India’s China War, says on his website that he has always had access to the report and had waited for it to be declassified. He says he has now decided to put a large part of the report in the public domain because of India’s unwillingness to release it.
While the Nehru government’s forward policy has been widely analyzed and criticized as being a contributor, Maxwell says on his website that the report holds India’s first prime minister personally responsible for the war. “The reasons for the long-term withholding of the report must be political, indeed probably partisan, perhaps even familial,” says Maxwell.
The report may provide cannon fodder for the BJP to attack Congress and beef up its campaign for a strong India under the leadership of Narendra Modi. Congress analysts are likely to dismiss the contents since it may not be revelatory, but harp on the progress India has made since then.