Guest Column by Professor B. R. Deepak
There is nothing new about the Henderson Brooks- P S Bhagat Report, the only fact that is established by Neville Maxwell by uploading it on his website is that he indeed possessed a copy as was widely believed, for he has vastly quoted from the Report in his book India’s China War published eight years after the 1962 blunder.
The Chinese government is also believed to own a copy as is clear from the books written in Chinese on 1962. Therefore, to keep the Report a ‘top secret’ as is the case with other archival documents pertaining to British India and Tibet is indeed an ostrich act. Declassifying the Report will demonstrate the willingness of the government to learn from our past mistakes, that it is ready to overhaul country’s defence strategies and preparedness as well as incoherent policy decisions between various ministries and departments. Therefore, the government must declassify it in supreme national interest.
Maxwell has held the prematurely conceived ‘forward policy’ of India as a culprit for the war, where as he has maintained a silence on the changing border lines in the Western Sector, especially the 1960 claim line by China. He had no answer for the same when he visited my department in late 80s. Therefore, in order to understand the matrix of ‘forward policy’ it is imperative to understand the overall border situation prevalent at that point in time. The situation on the borders had deteriorated drastically in the wake of Sino-Indian agreement of 1954 and had culminated in the Konka and Longju bloody incidents on Western and Eastern Sectors. The Tibetan revolt and the flight of the Dalai Lama in 1959 added fuel to the fire. The opportunity of reaching out a settlement when Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai visited India in 1960 was lost as India was not willing to negotiate the undemarcated and undefined border.
In the face of such a hostile coexistence, China built up its defenses and enhanced communication links in the border areas. Apart from building Aksai Chin Road, Shi (1992: 163) tells us that “By May 1960 a road connecting western Tibet with the Indian border was completed. A network of roads connecting Lhasa to Thagla Ridge was also completed and huge quantities of military supplies found their way to the border.”
In the Western Sector, beside Aksai Chin Highway, Lanak La was connected to Kongka by roads. After the failure of official level talks, the Chinese opened new posts at Nyagzu and Dambuguru. In 1961 these posts were connected to Khurnak Fort and Kongka La by constructing a road. Another road connected Rudok with Spanggur was also completed. The Chinese also started construction work on three new roads in Ladakh. One from Samzungling along the Galwan river; another from Khurnak Fort to the vicinity of the Sirijap; and the third from Spanggur to Shinzang along the southern bank of Spanggur lake (Manekar 1968: 38, 41). Nyagzu and Dambuguru were converted into military bases in 1961.
By mid 1960, China established three regimental headquarters, one at Qizil Jilga, another near Lanak La and a third at Rudok. According to Mullik (1971: 313), the then Director of Indian Intelligence, by October 1961 China had established 61 new posts – seven in Ladakh, fourteen opposite the Central Sector, twelve facing Sikkim in the Chumbi Valley, three opposite Bhutan and twenty-five across NEFA border. According to Mullik, seven new roads constructed in the Indian territory were close to the Central Sector border and eight to the border in the Eastern Sector. China was seriously preparing for war; on the other hand India was clueless as regards how to calibrate its border policy, the response came in the form of ill fated ‘forward policy’.