Apr 07, 2014
Given the hyperbole surrounding the jealously guarded Henderson Brooks Report (HBR), its disclosure, far from being a “grand denouement”, has turned out to be somewhat anti-climactic.
The main reason is that over the past half-century we have come to recognise the weaknesses of our archaic national security edifice, and cognitively realised that the roots of the 1962 Himalayan military debacle lay in our deeply flawed political system. Symptomatic of India’s post-Independence fantasy-world was Nehru’s rebuke to Army Chief General K.M. Cariappa: “It is not the business of the C-in-C to tell the Prime Minister who is going to attack us where. In fact, the Chinese will defend our Eastern frontier. You mind only Kashmir and Pakistan.”
Complex cartographic nuances of the Sino-Indian border and the ineptness of India’s political and military leadership in 1962, brought out by HBR, will provide material for endless academic discussion and analysis. However, there are other lessons to be learnt from this episode, especially since not much seems to have changed in the half-century that has elapsed.
For example, an April 2013 issue of the Economist identified three impediments which, according to the magazine, had thwarted “India’s ambition of becoming a 21st century power”. These were: the absence of a strategic culture, the distrust between a civilian ministry of defence (MoD) and the armed forces, and a dysfunctional defence procurement system. This shrewd observation by a foreign journal is close to the mark and all three factors deserve attention.