Defence

1962, IPKF to Balakot, Ladakh – India’s record in writing factual military history is poor

By The Print

Winston Churchill once said, “A nation that forgets its past has no future.” What he left unsaid was that the record of the past must be authentic and objective, and that governments and the public must not feel guilty or accountable for historical actions.

However, there is no excuse for remaining ignorant and then repeating past mistakes. This is why history in general and military history in particular is so important. The latter is a combination of the political, social, and military conduct of a nation in times of crisis.

Recently, the plaques put up by the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) in Rajasthan’s Rajsamand to commemorate the Battle of Haldighati were removed under pressure from Rajput organisations and BJP leaders because it said that Maharana Pratap “retreated from battle”.

However, most historical accounts do record that after initial gains, the outnumbered Mewar army carried out a tactical retreat. In sharp contrast, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh spelt out a new policy in June for the Ministry of Defence to transfer records, including war diaries, letters of proceedings and operational record books, to its History Division for proper upkeep, archival and writing histories using these documents.

However, the past record of the Ministry of Defence does not inspire confidence. No official histories of the 1962, 1965 and 1971 wars have been published so far. The Henderson Brooks-Bhagat Report, aimed at learning lessons from the debacle of 1962, has not been declassified even for the armed forces, let alone for the public.

Same is true of our counter-insurgency operations including those of the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) in Sri Lanka.

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