New Delhi, July 8: Defence minister Arun Jaitley has told Parliament that the Centre will continue to keep an army report on the 1962 war with China classified, a policy adopted by successive governments but against his own belief when he was leader of the Opposition.
“This is a top secret document and has not been declassified so far. Further, release of this report, fully or partially, or disclosure of any information related to this report would not be in national interest,” Jaitley said in reply to a question asked by H.K. Dua in the Rajya Sabha.
He said the government was aware of reports in the media “purporting to disclose part of the Henderson Brooks Report on the war. In March this year, Australian journalist Neville Maxwell who authored the book India’s China War disclosed parts of the report on his blog. The report was written in 1963 and Maxwell was believed to have accessed the contents for his book that largely blames a “forward policy” adopted by the army on Nehru’s orders that provoked China and led to the Indian debacle.
Soon after the leaks, Jaitley, then leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, wrote on the BJP’s official website: “All governments in the last 52 years did not feel the necessity of making the document public. This raises a legitimate question with regard to the de-classification of archival records. Are archival records to be kept away from public gaze indefinitely. If the document pertains to internal security there may be some public interest served in keeping them a secret for some time. However, to keep these documents ‘top secret’ indefinitely may not be in larger public interest. Any Nation is entitled to learn from the mistakes of the past. The security relevance of a document loses its relevance in the long term future. Any society is entitled to learn from the past mistakes and take remedial action. With the wisdom of hind sight I am of the opinion that the report’s contents could have been made public some decades ago.”
The Henderson Brooks report, as the investigation by then senior officers, Lt General T.B. Henderson and Brigadier Bhagat is known, identified operational lapses by the army and is believed to have pointed to faulty directions from the political leadership headed by the first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru.
The BJP, a strong critic of the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty, was seen as being in favour of making the report public after it assumed power.
“It further appears from the report that the Prime Minister and his favourite set of officials both in the Army and in the Intelligence establishment were flawed in their assessment,” Jaitley wrote in the article dated March 19, 2014. “In fact, the opinion of these officials close to the Prime Minister (Nehru) had cost this country heavily. The unpreparedness of the Armed Forces is writ large in the contents of the report. Was a Himalayan blunder of 1962 in fact a Nehruvian blunder?” Jaitley wondered.