Jaitley U-turn on ’62 war files in national interest?

New Delhi :  Defence Minister Arun Jaitley on Tuesday ruled out release of the classified Henderson Brooks Report on the 1962 India-China war that is said to be openly critical of the Indian political and military establishment of the time, saying its disclosure would not be in national interest.

“This (the Henderson Brooks report) is a top secret document and has not been declassified so far.  Further, release of this report, fully or partially, or disclosure of any information related to this report would not be in national interest,” Jaitley said in a written reply to a question in Rajya Sabha.

Before the national election in May, Jaitley’s party, the BJP, had demanded that the government of Dr Manmohan Singh release the report by former army Lieutenant General Henderson Brooks so that the country would know how the government pushed the military into a war it could only lose. “What are they trying to hide by making the war report classified?” BJP spokesman Ravi Shankar Prasad had asked. “We have a right to know what went wrong. We lost the war because of Nehru,” Prasad had said while holding the country’s first Prime Minister responsible for the debacle.

In a blog in March this year, Jaitley had written that “to keep these documents ‘top secret’ indefinitely may not be in larger public interest. Any nation is entitled to learn from the mistakes of the past. The security relevance of a document loses its relevance in the long term future. … I am of the opinion that the report’s contents could have been made public some decades ago.”

The report authored by the Brooks and Brigadier P S Bhagat was commissioned by the Indian Army following its humiliating defeat at the hands of the Chinese. Excerpts of the military investigation were leaked in March by an Australian journalist who wrote an acclaimed book on the war and said the government’s policy of forward deployment in the high mountains had increased the chances of conflict.

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