Thursday, March 20, 2014

Neville Maxwell

Maxwell was the reporter for the Times (UK) who covered India (1959-1967) and south Asia and is famous for the comment that the 1967 general elections would be the last one that India had as a democratic country. He covered the Indo-China war and his considered viewpoint was is all India's fault.

Maxwell at least has the virtue of being consistent, he has also blamed America for the current problems that have opened up between China and her maritime neighbors.

Here are his comments on releasing the Henderson-Brooks report (on the Indo-China war) which is still classified secret in India.

The most interesting question is (as always): who was the whistle-blower?
Those who gave me access to the Henderson Brooks Report when I was researching my study of the Sino-Indian border dispute laid down no conditions as to how I should use it.  That they would remain anonymous went without saying, an implicit condition I will always observe, otherwise how the material was used was left to my judgement.  I decided that while I would quote freely from the Report, thus revealing that I had had access to it (and indeed had a copy), I would neither proclaim nor deny that fact; and my assumption was that the gist of the report having been published in 1970 in the detailed account of the Army’s debacle given in my India’s China War, the Indian government would release it after a decent interval.

The passing of years showed that assumption to have been mistaken and left me in a quandary.  I did not have to rely on memory to tell the falsity of the government’s assertion that keeping the Report secret was necessary for reasons of national security, I had taken a copy and the text nowhere touches on issues that could have current strategic or tactical relevance.  The reasons for the long-term withholding of the report must be political, indeed probably partisan, perhaps even familial.  While I kept the Report to myself I was therefore complicit in a continuing cover-up.

I marked the new century by publishing as an “Introduction to the Henderson Brooks Report” a detailed description, and account of the circumstances in which it was written, explaining its political and military context and summarising its findings (EPW, April 14, 2001): there was no public reaction in the Indian press or even among the chauvinist ranks of the academic security establishment.  My first attempt to put the Report itself on the public record was indirect and low-key: after I retired from the University I donated my copy to Oxford’s Bodleian Library, where, I thought, it could be studied in a setting of scholarly calm.   

The Library initially welcomed it as a valuable contribution in that “grey area” between actions and printed books, in which I had given them material previously.  But after some months the librarian to whom I had entrusted it warned me that, under a new regulation, before the Report was put on to the shelves and opened to the public it would have to be cleared by the British government with the government which might be adversely interested!  

Shocked by that admission of a secret process of censorship to which the Bodleian had supinely acceded I protested to the head Librarian, then an American, but received no response.  Fortunately I was able to retrieve my donation before the Indian High Commission in London was alerted in the Bodleian’s procedures and was perhaps given the Report.

In 1962, noting that all attempts in India to make the government release the Report had failed, I decided on a more direct approach and made the text available to the editors of three of India’s leading publications, asking that they observe the usual journalistic practice of keeping their source to themselves. (I thought that would be clear enough to those who had long studied the border dispute and saw no need to depart from my long-standing “no comment” position)  

To my surprise the editors concerned decided, unanimously, not to publish.  They explained that, while “there is no question that the report should be made public”, if it were leaked rather than released officially the result would be a hubbub over national security, with most attention focused on the leak itself, and little or no productive analysis of the text.  The opposition parties would savage the government for laxity in allowing the Report to get out, the government would turn in rage upon those who had published it.

Although surprised by this reaction, unusual in the age of Wikileaks, I could not argue with their reasoning.  Later I gave the text to a fourth editor and offered it to a fifth, with the same nil result.  

So my dilemma continued – although with the albatross hung, so to speak, on Indian necks as well as my own. As I see it now I have no option but, rather than leave the dilemma to my heirs, to put the Report on the internet myself.  So here is the text (there are two lacunae, accidental in the copying process).