Poor military leadership, not equipment, led to 1962 debacle: Report under wraps

FP

There is no reason why the Indian Army cannot rise again and give a much better account of itself. I hope when the day comes, it happens under my escutcheon.

This was what Gen J N Chaudhuri wrote in a 40-page covering note while forwarding the Henderson Brooks-PS Bhagat report on the 1962 military debacle to the Defence Ministry.

Fifty years after the Sino-Indian war, the Henderson Brooks-Bhagat report remains under wraps but

The Sunday Express has learnt that around four pages of this covering note focus on wartime Defence Minister V K Krishna Menon's interference in military matters, particularly on the shuffling of senior generals in the run-up to the month-long war.

The covering note, according to sources aware of the contents of the report, is the only place where there is a comment on the political leadership of the Defence Ministry. There is no direct comment on then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru anywhere in the letter or in the report, which confines itself to the conduct of military operations.

The important revelatory aspect of the Brooks-Bhagat report is its conclusion that shortages in ammunition and equipment were not among the primary reasons for the defeat.

In fact, the report, sources said, makes it clear that much has been stated about the "poor quality" of equipment and weapons making the Army unfit for battle. The authors have put on record that in their considered view "the levels of stores and equipment didn't constitute a significant handicap". Instead, they have identified poor military leadership as the main reason for the Army not having fought better than it did.

The report is in four volumes, but its main operative content is less than 150 pages, typed single space in foolscap paper with corrections made by hand in ink. The rest of the report comprises essentially annexures, minutes of meetings, operational maps and key pieces of communication.

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