Neville Maxwell

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Neville Maxwell
Born 1926 (age 91–92)
London, England
Occupation Journalist
Citizenship Australia
Alma mater McGill University
University of Cambridge
Subject Sino-Indian War
Notable works India's China War
Neville Maxwell's Blog

Neville Maxwell (born 1926 in London) is a retired British journalist and scholar who authored the 1970 book India's China War, which is considered an authoritative analysis of the 1962 Sino-Indian War.[1][2][3] However, he has been criticised for his pessimistic views on Indian democracy.

India's China War[edit]

An Australian born in London, Maxwell was educated at McGill University in Canada and the University of Cambridge in England. He joined The Times as a foreign correspondent in 1955 and spent three years in the Washington bureau. In 1959 he was posted to New Delhi as the South Asia correspondent. In the next eight years he travelled from Kabul to East Pakistan and Kathmandu to Ceylon, reporting in detail the end of the Nehru era in India and the post-Nehru developments.[4] During the 1962 Sino-Indian War, Maxwell wrote for The Times from New Delhi, and was the only reporter there who did not uncritically accept the official Indian account of events.[5] This eventually led to his "virtual expulsion" from India.[5]

In 1967, Maxwell joined the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London as a senior fellow to write his book India's China War. He was with the Institute of Commonwealth Studies at Oxford University at the time when the book was published in 1970.[4] The book draws extensively from India's top-secret Henderson Brooks–Bhagat Report, which Maxwell obtained a copy of.[6] Due to the lack of available information from China, Maxwell, like other foreign scholars, had to rely on inferences based on official Chinese statements with regards to China's perceptions.[7]:1 He did not attempt to evaluate the accuracy of these perceptions.[7]:3

The book was widely praised across a diverse range of opinions, including British historian A. J. P. Taylor, Chinese premier Zhou Enlai and US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.[3] On the other hand, Singaporean leader Lee Kuan Yew considered it "revisionist, pro-China history".[8][9][10] In India, the Indian government charged him with breach of Official Secrets Act, forcing him to stay out of India to avoid arrest, until the charges were annulled by Prime Minister Morarji Desai eight years later.[11]

View on Indian democracy[edit]

In the 1960s Maxwell incorrectly predicted that India would not remain a democracy for much longer. While serving as the South Asia correspondent of The Times of London, Maxwell authored a series of pessimistic reports filed in February 1967. In the atmosphere leading up to the 4th Lok Sabha elections, he wrote that "The great experiment of developing India within a democratic framework has failed. [Indians will soon vote] in the fourth—and surely last—general election."[12]

Leak of the Henderson Brooks-Bhagat report[edit]

On 17 March 2014, Maxwell posted the first part of the Henderson Brooks–Bhagat Report on his website.[13] The report was written by two Indian army officers in 1963 to examine India's defeat in the Sino-Indian War. It has been classified as top secret by the Indian government, but Maxwell acquired a copy and his India's China War contains the gist of the report.[6] After the Indian government refused to release the report for over 50 years, Maxwell decided to make it public.[6][11][13][14]


One commentator in India declared that "No account of the 1962 war would be complete without Neville Maxwell's authoritative analysis."[1] American political scientist John Garver wrote that Maxwell shaped the orthodox scholarly view, also reached by American scholar Allen Whiting, regarding China's perception of and response to India's Forward Policy, namely that "in deciding for war, China's leaders were responding to an Indian policy of establishing Indian military outposts in territory claimed by both India and China but already under effective Chinese military occupation." Garver also pointed out that Maxwell did not have access to Chinese documents or archives which would have given him insights into the policy making process.[7]:29

Srinath Ragvan, writing in the Economic and Political Weekly, calls India's China War a "seminal revisionist account," but argues that Maxwell "overreached" and that he "curiously interpreted Delhi's actions almost as Beijing would have viewed it."[15] Ragvan points to "post-revisionist" accounts, such as those by Steven Hoffman.[16]

United States President Richard Nixon and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger both read India's China War, and discussed it with Chinese premier Zhou Enlai on their 1972 visit to China.[2] In a 2014 interview Maxwell said Zhou Enlai related Kissinger’s remark, "Reading that book showed me I could do business with you people." Maxwell added that "my revelation" that blaming China for the war was "a frame-up" came like "a flash of light everywhere." At a banquet in Beijing, he continued, Zhou publicly told him "Your book did a service to truth which benefitted China."[11]

Selected publications[edit]

  • China's Road to Development. Oxford; New York: Pergamon Press. 1979. ISBN 0-08-023140-3. 
  • India, the Nagas, and the North-East. London: MRG. 1980. ISBN 0-903114-19-4. 
  • Yindu Dui Hua Zhan Zheng. Beijing: Shi jie zhi shi chu ban she : Xin hua shu dian Beijing fa xing suo fa xing. 1981. 
  • with Bruce J. McFarlane (1984). China's Changed Road to Development. Oxford ; New York: Pergamon Press. ISBN 0-08-030849-X. 
  • "Sino-Indian Border Dispute Reconsidered". Economic and Political Weekly. 34 (14): 905–918. 1999. JSTOR 4407848. 
  • "Henderson Brooks Report: An Introduction". Economic and Political Weekly. 36 (14/15): 1189–1193. 2001. JSTOR 4410481. 
  • "Forty Years of Folly". Critical Asian Studies. 35 (1): 99–112. 2003. doi:10.1080/14672710320000061497. 
  • "Settlements and Disputes: China's Approach to Territorial Issues". Economic and Political Weekly. 41 (36): 3873–3881. 2006. JSTOR 4418678. 


  1. ^ a b "Remembering a War". Rediff. 8 October 2002. Retrieved 8 May 2013. 
  2. ^ a b Arpi, Claude (January 2011). "1962 War: Why keep Henderson Brooks report secret?". Indian Defence Review. Retrieved 8 April 2014. 
  3. ^ a b Kai Friese (22 October 2012). "China Was The Aggrieved; India, Aggressor In '62". Outlook India. Retrieved 8 May 2013. 
  4. ^ a b India's China War
  5. ^ a b Gregory Clark. "Book review: India's China War". Retrieved 8 May 2013. 
  6. ^ a b c Pandalai, Shruti (2 April 2014). "Burying Open Secrets: India's 1962 War and the Henderson-Brooks Report". Foreign Policy. Archived from the original on 8 April 2014. Retrieved 8 April 2014. 
  7. ^ a b c "China's Decision for War with India in 1962" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 26 March 2009. Retrieved 14 August 2012. 
  8. ^ Today newspaper (23 September 2013). "What's the Big Idea?". Today (Singapore). Retrieved 26 December 2013. 
  9. ^ ""China Was The Aggrieved; India, Aggressor In '62"". Retrieved 2017-08-16. 
  10. ^ "Neville Maxwell discloses document revealing that India provoked China into 1962 border war". South China Morning Post. Retrieved 2017-08-16. 
  11. ^ a b c Debasish Roy Chowdhury (31 March 2014). "Neville Maxwell interview: the full transcript". South China Morning Post. Retrieved 31 March 2014. 
  12. ^ Ramachandra Guha (17 July 2005). "Past & Present: Verdicts on India". The Hindu. Retrieved 13 May 2007. 
  13. ^ a b Unnithan, Sandeep (18 March 2014). "Henderson Brooks report lists the guilty men of 1962". India Today. Retrieved 8 April 2014. 
  14. ^ Diplomat, The Diplomat Staff, The. "India's Top Secret 1962 China War Report Leaked". The Diplomat. Retrieved 2017-08-26. 
  15. ^ Raghavan, Srinath (2006). "Sino-Indian Boundary Dispute, 1948-60: A Reappraisal". Economic and Political Weekly. 41 (36): 3882–3892. doi:10.2307/4418679. JSTOR 4418679. 
  16. ^ Hoffmann, Steven A. (1990). India and the China Crisis. Berkeley: University of California Press. ISBN 0520065379. 

External links[edit]