There is much that is not commonly known about the shocking aspects of the 1962 India-China War, so shocking indeed that S Gopal, Nehru's official biographer, was constrained to comment: “Things went so wrong that had they not happened it would have been difficult to believe them.” The Henderson-Brooks report covered only the limited aspects their authors were tasked with. The book “Foundations of Misery” by Rajnikant Puranik in its chapter “Himalayan Misadventure” details all the aspects of that avoidable war. We are serialising that chapter.
Khushwant Singh had worked in the Indian High Commission in London under Krishna Menon, and this is what he had to say about Krishna Menon in his autobiography, Truth, Love and a Little Malice: “I had briefly met Krishna Menon in my college days and had not detected any signs of genius [as claimed by some] in him. He was a sour-tempered barrister without briefs and spent his energies building up his India League and paying court to Pandit Nehru whenever he was in England. His appointment as High Commissioner was badly received in India and the Indian community in England as gross favouritism.
“…he set up many sub-organisations of his India League and got money from rich Indians and his English friends as donations to his organisations; in return, he gave the latter contracts for supply of arms to India. He had no scruples in business matters. He was also a congenital liar and regarded truth as good enough for the simple-minded and lying as the best exercise for the mind.
“…Why Menon got where he did under the patronage of Pandit Nehru remains, and probably will remain, unexplained.
“…General Shiv Varma summed him up aptly when he said, 'Menon was a bachelor, the same as his father.”
Krishna Menon had engaged in a number of shady deals for the Government while in London as High Commissioner. Jeep Scandal Case of 1948 was only one of the scandals—it happened soon after independence.
While Indian High Commissioner to UK, he finalised a Defence deal with a firm in London with capital assets of barely £605 and placed orders in July 1948 for supply of 2000 rugged, all-terrain army jeeps urgently required for Kashmir operations within five months, with deliveries to commence within six weeks. Menon paid a large sum of £1,72,000 to the supplier upfront, before even a single vehicle was delivered. The first batch, which was to arrive in India within 6 weeks, arrived in March 1949, after 8 months, by when ceasefire in J&K had already been declared—on January 1, 1949. The initial batch of 155 jeeps that landed at Madras port were found to be all unserviceable. Defence official, who inspected the jeeps, rejected the entire shipment.
PAC—Public Accounts Committee—conducted an enquiry, passing severe strictures, and recommended judicial enquiry to fix responsibility for the scam. But, the Government did nothing. When there was a clamour in the Parliament, the Government simply tabled its note to PAC to reconsider its recommendation, and asked the House to treat the matter as closed! This was in 1954. PAC, however, again revived the issue in its next report to the Parliament in 1955. Thereupon, the Home Minister Pant, at the instance of Nehru, simply announced in the Parliament that the Government had taken a final decision to treat the matter as closed! How could government close a clear case of gross corruption without taking any action, ignoring PAC’s recommendations! We are these days aghast at the government attitude towards the CAG and how it manipulates the PAC and the JPC, but was the Nehruvian past any better?
How could they be so brazen? Well, the House was dominated by the Congress, the Opposition was miniscule, media was pliable, there was no TV, and Nehru—the democrat(!)—could afford to be authoritarian. One could ask: How could one ignore a clear case of corruption and incompetence, especially when it concerned our security and territorial integrity, and adversely affected our army operations in Kashmir? But, why get agitated on this? Nehru later made this same person, Krishna Menon, India’s Defence Minister.
But, of course, Nehru was not corrupt. He was honest. There! You have a parallel with Manmohan Singh. Is it sufficient for a prime minister to be personally financially honest? Is it ok for him to let others make money? Is it not gross dereliction of duty on the part of PMs to allow loot under their watch? And PMs who allow that—are they fit to be PMs? Manmohan Singh is any way a weak PM, with no personal following or base. He is a Babu who is happy being a PM—something he could never have been on his own strength. But, that was not the case with Nehru. He was the most powerful among the PMs so far in India, who could do as he wished.
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