28 August, 2010


by Claude Arpi

According to The Times of India, Chief information commissioner Wajahat Habibullah said the Henderson-Brooks report revealed the incompetence of the Indian military top brass.

It is not fair of the Chief information Commissioner to speak of the incompetence of the Indian military top brass, without mentioning the names of the politicians who have selected the ‘top brass’. As often, it is the Army which suffered and it is the Army which is been blamed. These remarks were entirely unnecessary.

The Commission refused to declassify the Henderson Brooks on the ground that it could endanger national security. The Bench (comprising Chief information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah and Information Commissioner ML Sharma) said: “We have examined the report specifically in terms of its bearing on present national security. There is no doubt that the issue of the India- China border particularly along the North-east parts of India is still a live issue with ongoing negotiations between the two countries on this matter.”

Well, it is possible that some portions of the Report mention the five rounds of border talks between India and China in 1960 or other information related to the border (perhaps the situation in the Aksai Chin), but as it is admitted but the Army Headquarters the Report is only an internal review which did not engage the Army (or the Ministry of External Affairs). Col. Raj Shukla who represented the Army during the hearings said: “The report prepared by Lt. Gen. Henderson Brooks and Brig. Prem Bhagat was a part of internal review conducted on the orders of the then Chief of Army Staff Gen. Choudhary. Reports of internal review are not even submitted to Govt. let alone placed in the public domain. Disclosure of this information will amount to disclosure of the army’s operational strategy in the North-East and the discussion on deployments has a direct bearing on the question of the demarcation of the Line of Actual Control between India and China, a live issue under examination between the two countries at present.”

The logical thing that the CIC should have done was to ask for the declassification of the Report and request the Army (or the NSA) to sanitize the portions which could jeopardize the current negotiations with China.

The CIC was probably not aware that the Indian Defence Minister had, in reply to a question, announced in the Parliament on April 1, 1963 that an inquiry into the reverses in NEFA had been instituted. The Minister affirmed that a “thorough investigation had been ordered to find out what went wrong with (i) our training; (ii) our equipment; (iii) our system of command; (iv) the physical fitness of our troops and (v) the capacity of our Commanders at all levels to influence the men under them”.

The purpose of the inquiry was to not witch-hunting, he said, but to “derive military lessons” and to “bring out clearly what were the mistakes or deficiencies in the past, so as to ensure that in future the mistakes are not repeated and such deficiencies are quickly made up”. The Inquiry Committee was headed Lt.-Gen. T.B. Henderson-Brooks with Major-General P.S. Bhagat as a member, he announced.



  1. It cannot be said fro the report as to who appointed the top brass. The government of the time was obviously responsible, but that is hardly a piece of information that might be revealing of anything. As for the contents, it is interesting that one who has not even seen the report let alone gone through it, should decide that he knows more of its contents than those who have read it through!
    Wajahat Habibullah

  2. LT GEN VIJAY OBEROIAugust 31, 2010 at 7:10 PM

    As one who was the custodian of the Report as the DGMO, I am surprised at the assertion of both Wajahat and Col Raj Shukla.
    As I recall, the Report was comprehensive in its indictment of the political leadership, the bureaucracy and the military. It is no body's case that there were no snafus by the army (that the Air Force did not participate still remains a mystery-who was responsible?) The report severely indicts the higher policy makers (read political leadership), the senior bureaucracy, the so-called forward policy formulated by Nehru's confidante - the then IB Chief and lays blame for the lack of preparedness of the army on the policy makers. The army officers who for their personal aggrandisement had hobnobbed with the political leaders, like Gen Kaul, also came for severe criticism. I am really disappointed by the comments of Wajahat, who I personally know to be fair and circumspect, for making such a loose statement. There needs to be a limit to loyalty!