From Maoist China to Maoists at home – Ravi Shanker Kapoor

Wise men learn by other men’s mistakes, fools by their own, said the nineteenth century British publisher H.G. Bohn. Evidently, he did not reckon with a large section―those who don’t learn at all, even from their own mistakes. The tribe managing India’s foreign and security affairs belongs to this category. Over the decades, they have stumbled one blunder after another―without any learning.

Secrecy is the companion of national security all over the world. In India, however, secrecy has become almost a fetish with our political masters. They want to keep everything under wraps, and this includes the Henderson Brooks-P.S. Bhagat report on the 1962 Sino-India War to the Defence Ministry. Henderson was a Lieutenant-General, while Brigadier P.S. Bhagat was commandant of the Indian Military Academy at that time.

According to the Brooks-Bhagat report, the shortages in ammunition and equipment were not among the main cause for the military debacle. Much of the problem lay with poor military leadership. The report, whose contents were retrieved by a newspaper, castigated the then Chief of General Staff, Lt Gen B.M. Kaul, who was made GOC of the newly created 4 Corps just before the war. The man who had no combat experience―during World War II, he was in-charge of a drama troupe for the entertainment of troops―was handed over the most crucial assignment of the war!

There are no valid grounds as to why the nation shouldn’t be informed about the causes of the defeat and humiliation of 1962, an event that continues to rankle the hearts of people. In 2008, Defence Minister A.K. Antony informed Parliament that the contents of the report “are not only extremely sensitive, but are of current operational value.”

The operational value remains “current” even after half a century! And this from the government which prides itself on being open, transparent, the initiator of the Right To Information, etc.! In March 2010, the Central Information Commission (CIC) also sided with the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government and said, “No part of the report might at this stage be disclosed.”

Perhaps, the CIC is wiser than military officers who want the Henderson Brooks-PC Bhagat report to be made public. “As far as the culpability part is concerned, that is now long over. All the persons concerned with the decision are no longer here with us. There are no accusations possible today. [Making the report public] would bring out the truth and will give an analysis of that period—whatever lessons have to be picked up, today we are well equipped to take those,” says Gen V.P. Malik (Retd), who was Army Chief during the Kargil operations.

Bringing out the truth in the public domain, however, is something the Congress-led government is not comfortable with. For it was Jawaharlal Nehru who was prime minister in 1962, and his foreign policy blunders, syrupy pacifism, and subprime statecraft were largely responsible for the debacle. He was so obsessed with the claptrap associated with Third World solidarity and the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) that he became blind to the realities of China’s expansionist designs. Despite repeated reminders from sensible people, including from his own party, he dogmatically believed in the fiction that socialist nations do not launch aggressive wars.

There is a famous anecdote which underlines not only Nehru’s adolescence in geopolitical matters but also robustness of the grand old party (in contradistinction with the prevalent worship of the Nehru-Gandhi Dynasty these days). Nehru was waxing eloquent in Parliament about the good intentions of China sometime before the 1962 War. Justifying Beijing’s aggressive actions, Nehru said, “Not a blade of grass grows in Aksai Chin.” His point was that Aksai Chin was anyway useless, inhospitable land. Mahavir Tyagi, a senior Congress leader who had served as minister earlier, retorted. Pointing to his bald head, he said, “Nothing grows here… Should it be cut off or given away to somebody else?” The entire House burst into laughter in which the prime minister also joined.

Unfortunately, things had come to a pretty pass because Nehru had allowed his confidante and the then defence minister V.K. Krishna Menon to call the shots. Menon, an incorrigible Leftist, was a baneful influence on India’s foreign and defence policies. He was pathologically anti-West. The concomitant evil was his blindness to the evil of some of the newly independent nations. Unsurprisingly, he could never perceive the shenanigans of Maoist China. Nor could Nehru. The denouement was 1962.

The military has learnt its lessons from the war. For instance, only those officers who have the experience of commanding battalions, brigades, etc., are appointed Army Commanders. This practically precludes a repeat of the Gen Kaul fiasco.

The political class, however, steadfastly remains knowledge-proof. Even after half a century of the humiliating defeat, it has not been able to work out a mechanism that ensures the weeding out of quixotic and anti-national elements occupying important offices. So, Bhabani Sengupta, a traitorous peacenik who favored sanctions against India after India Gandhi effected Pokhran I, wormed his way into former prime minister Inder Kumar Gujral’s coterie; as officer on special duty in the prime minister’s office, he enjoyed the secretary rank. It was only when leaders across political parties―including former prime ministers Chandra Shekhar and Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the CPI(M)’s Rupchand Pal, the Congress’ Santosh Mohan Deb and R.L. Bhatia―protested that he was forced to quit.

People with dubious credentials continue to influence government policy. Consider the cases of Harsh Mander and Aruna Roy. While the former was till recently a member of the National Advisory Council (NAC), which is headed by UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi, Roy is still part of what is known as Sonia’s ‘kitchen cabinet.’ Mander is among those who want to save Afzal Guru, the jihadi convicted for the 2001 Parliament attack. Roy thinks that Binayak Sen, a Maoist supporter, is “a good doctor.” This for the man who has been found guilty by a court for assisting the mass murderers in the killing fields of Chhattisgarh! Sen himself found a place in one of the committees of the Planning Commission.

It needs to be mentioned her that the Prime Minister is the ex-officio chairman of the Planning Commission. And Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on record said at a conference of chief ministers: “Leftwing extremism, religious fundamentalism, ethnic violence, and terrorism are the major internal security challenges facing the country… I urge the states to fight them together with the Centre.”

But, Dr. Singh, how can you face “the major internal security challenges” by keeping the company of the Harsh Manders and the Aruna Roys? You can’t run with the hare and hunt with the hounds.

Apart from the fifth column, which is promoted with zeal by the Congress, most officials in the defence and foreign ministries remain wedded to the silly tenets―Panchsheel, Thirdworldism, et al―that they imbibed in schools and colleges.

Our military and paramilitary forces can only fight the enemy―at home or on the border. They have done quite a good job. The problem is with the people who chalk out foreign and security policies; it is these people who remain wedded to discredited doctrines like socialism and NAM (India attended the recent conference at Tehran, straining the ties with the world’s most powerful country, the US). From Maoist China to the Maoists in the jungles of Dantewada, it has been the same story.

The body is strong enough to meet any challenge; the problem is with the mind, which suffers from sclerosis due to the infection caused by dangerous ideologies.

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