War in High Himalaya: The Indian Army in Crisis, 1962

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The circumstances attending the disastrous campaign that followed the Chinese invasion of India's Himalayan borders have never been clearly understood. Even today, some three decades after the ceasefire of November 1962, very little official information has been made available to the public or the press about that brief but traumatic episode. The present memoir is therefore all the more welcome, not only because it comes from the pen of one who is an established writer and commentator on military affairs but also because, as Director of Military Operations at Army Headquarters during that fateful period, he both witnessed and took part in the processes through which government policies were formulated and the decision taken to go to war against the Chinese, in circumstances that must have indicated inevitable catastrophe. General Palit describes with refreshing candour the ad hoc nature of the decision-making apparatus at prime ministerial and cabinet levels, the lack of any semblance of coordinated staff analyses, the over-reach of government into the responsibilities of the military, and the quiescence of the latter in permitting it. He is uninhibited in recording facts as he saw them and the opinions he held at the time, though always careful to distinguish between that and hind-sight rationalization. While commenting on the actions of others the author is also frankly and disarmingly self-critical. In an attempt to explain the historical causes for the almost total lack of inter-face between the government and the military, a leitmotiv that runs through the narrative, the author has made an interesting analysis of the ethos of the Indian Army as it has developed during the British-Indian period, an inheritance from the colonial past that remained unchanged despite forty-five years of independence. In a fascinating postscript the author demonstrates that this malfunctioning of the government's national security system continues to the present day.

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The fact that the civilian govt apparatus has chosen to remain silent till date on the real causes of the debacle is indicative of its follies in the affair. Even the Henderson Brooks Commission was mandated to study only the 'military failures' and not that of the politco-bureaucratic combine of the day. It is self-evident that wars are not won and lost by the military alone. The blind sightedness of the bureaucracy has been adequately exposed in this book. A must read for someone wishing to delve into such a sensitive topic even today. 

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well, to begin with, this might be the most detailed description of 62 war as yet. However everyone involved in 62 debacle tried to save his own skin. Written 30 years after the war, how true or accurate the book might be, is debatable. Noone has ever accepted the blame for our army's rout- be it Kaul, Sen,Pathania, Dalvi or Palit himself.
One should study eveyone's point of view and judge himself. This book describes the army hq point of view. And I fully suspect they had much to do with the state of affairs.
 

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About the author (1991)

Born in 1919, Major General DK Palit followed his family's military tradition by accepting a commission in the Indian Army in July 1939. He served with the Baluch Regiment in the Second World War and with the 9th Gorkhas after the partition of India, winning one of India's highest military r honors, the VrC. After further active service in Kashmir and Ladakh, 1951-.60, he was appointed Director of Military Operations, Army Headquarters, in 1961. He was promoted to Major General in 1963 and fought in 1965 war against Pakistan. A noted military historian, general Palit is author of over a dozen books including war in the Deterrent Age (Macdonald, 1966).

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