It is time we reminded ourselves of the prophetic words of Sardar Patel and Sri Aurobindo as we face renewed threats across the Himalayas. It is true the situation today is different from the one in 1950 or 60s. And yet the validity of the lesson remains: the firmness with which both spoke regarding national security has not lost its relevance.
It is often said that ‘those who forget history are condemned to repeat it’. The truth of this adage is seldom realized. With the brutal and savage killings of unarmed Indian soldiers by the death squads of the People’s Liberation Army [PLA] and the brazen claims of China over the entire Galwan valley of Ladakh and other vital territories that historically belonged to India, we seem to have come full circle from the debacle of 1962.
The hawkishness which informs the current chorus, “India of 2021 is not the India of 1962”, ignores the accompanying truth: China of 2021 is not the China of 1962. It is challenging the United States.
Successive governments have ignored the Chinese strategy of incremental land grab along the LAC and thereby strengthening its positions by building infrastructure.
But for the 1962 India-China war, there would have been unbridled propensity to couch criminalization as political revolution. Even now, communists use all their leverages in India and abroad to dub their criminal and anti-national activities as ‘revolution’. The Indian romance about the ‘Red Flag’ at the cost of all other flags of productivity and progress though waning, is far from over.
While civilian supremacy over the armed forces is accepted in democracies the world over, and is an article of faith in the Indian military establishment, it refers to political and not bureaucratic control. It was the civil military disconnect which was largely responsible for slippages and deficiencies in India’s defence preparedness in 1962. Sadly, the situation has not improved much since then.
A section of the confidential Henderson Brooks-Bhagat Report, which has been lying with the Defence Ministry for over 50 years now, has now been put online by Australian journalist Neville Maxwell. The report was a result of the government inquiry into the humiliating defeat at the hands of China in the 1962 border war. You can read the report here.
The Indian response to the the hysteria in the press about recent Chinese incursions suggest that it wants to avoid rhetorical, political and military fights with China. India has avoided making public its displeasure even on the issue of China's continued military assistance to Pakistan.
The Indian response to China's policies suggest that India wants to strengthen its position vis-a-vis while seeking to avoid any direct confrontation with it.
The Delhi High Court on July 16 directed the Union government to place before it the Henderson Brooks-Bhagat Report.
The court issued a notice to the government to file its response on a petition filed by veteran journalist Kuldip Nayar.
The report, lying with the Defence Ministry for over 45 years now, was a result of the government inquiry into the humiliating defeat at the hands of China in the 1962 border war.
The Government of India still treats the report as a classified document and have no concrete reasons for not making it public after so many years.
The Indian government's record in declassifying past records is appalling compared to mature democracies like the United States where even war secrets are declassified after the usual 30-year period. And in the "world's largest democracy" important documents relating to our history are not made public on flimsy grounds.