Neville Maxwell's War

K. Subrahmanyam was Director of the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses from 1969 to 1975 and from 1980 to 1987.
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  • March 2013
    From the Archives

    Neville Maxwell's book, India's China War (Jaico Publishing House, Bombay, 1970) has already been subjected to extensive comments by a number of senior journalists in this country. By and large, the comments are not commendatory and one correspondent reflected the official view that it had woven a string of half-truths and misrepresentations around a preconceived conclusion. It is natural for an ordinary Indian to be indignant over the book. The author's bias and distortions are so blatant throughout that one is solely tempted to dismiss the work as purely polemical. But it would be wrong to do so, for two reasons. First though, although there has been an attempt to play down this aspect, Maxwell has claimed that officers and officials of the Indian army and Government of India gave him access to unpublished files and reports and he has heavily drawn upon these materials. Anyone going through the book cannot doubt the validity of this claim. Secondly, in spite of his bias, Maxwell has perhaps unwittingly rendered a valuable service by breaking some new ground in the debate on the 1962 debacle. He has seriously and with significant data questioned the popular view that Prime Minister Nehru was taken in by the slogan of Hindi-Chini Bhai-Bhai [Indians and Chinese are brothers] and did not wake up to the Chinese danger until it was too late. He has also contributed to the rebuttal of the widely held impression—this with his access to official records of the time—that the prime minister and the defence minister interfered with military operations and that the North-East Frontier Agency (NEFA) debacle was due to a lack of men and material.