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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] He has, however, been criticised for his pessimistic and often inaccurate views on Indian democracy.

Neville Maxwell
Born1926 (age 92–93)
London, England
Alma materMcGill University
University of Cambridge
SubjectSino-Indian War
Notable worksIndia's China War
Neville Maxwell's Blog


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]

Regarded as a comprehensive revisionist study,[6] India's China War contradicted the then prevalent understanding of the war as a product of Chinese "betrayal and expansionism",[6] and set out to prove that it was "in fact of India’s making, that it was 'India's China War'."[7] The book drew extensively from India's classified Henderson Brooks–Bhagat Report, an internal operational review of India's military debacle, which Maxwell was able to obtain a copy of.[8] Due to the lack of available information from China, Maxwell, had to rely on inferences based on official Chinese statements with regards to China's perceptions.[9]:1 He did not attempt to evaluate the accuracy of these perceptions.[9]:3

Maxwell's India's China War 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".[10][3][11] 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.[12]

The book may have been instrumental in briding the gulf between the US and China. According to Maxwell, Kissinger told Zhou Enlai, "reading that book showed me I could do business with you people."[12] The US President Richard Nixon too is said to have read the book, and discussed it with Zhou Enlai during the 1972 visit to China.[2] Maxwell's contention that the war was "a frame-up" was "a flash of light everywhere." Zhou is said to have acknowledged to Maxwell, "your book did a service to truth which benefitted China."[12]

View on Indian democracyEdit

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."[13]

Leak of the Henderson Brooks–Bhagat reportEdit

On 17 March 2014, Maxwell posted the first part of the Henderson Brooks–Bhagat Report on his website.[14] 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.[8] After the Indian government refused to release the report for over 50 years, Maxwell decided to make it public.[8][12][14][15]


Maxwell's India's China War received negative reviews in India. Historian Parshotam Mehra commented that "deeply-rooted prejudice" oozed out of its every sentence, with examples such as:[7]

To sustain his narrative, Maxwell cited those facts alone that were convenient, and omitted the others. Well-known scholarly analyses such as the Himalayan Battleground[16] or Francis Watson's The Frontiers of China were missing from Maxwell's bibliography, and so too were the writings of men who had first-hand knowledge, such as Sir Olaf Caroe.[7] Notwithstanding these defects, Mehra believed that the book made a contribution as an "alternative point of view to an understanding of the events" that led to the hostilities.[7]

The editors of also stated that "no account of the 1962 war would be complete without Neville Maxwell's authoritative analysis."[1] On the other hand, historian Srinath Raghavan, Senior Fellow at the Centre for Policy Research, called India's China War a "seminal revisionist account". He argued that Maxwell "overreached" and that he "curiously interpreted Delhi's actions almost as Beijing would have viewed it". Raghavan recommended "post-revisionist" accounts, such as Steven Hoffman's India and China Crisis.[17]

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.[9]:29



  • India's China War. London: Cape. 1970. ISBN 978-0-224-61887-8.
  • Maxwell, Neville (1979). China's Road to Development. Oxford; New York: Pergamon Press. ISBN 978-0-08-023140-2.
  • Maxwell, Neville (1980). India, the Nagas, and the North-East. London: MRG. ISBN 978-0-903114-19-6.
  • Maxwell, Neville; McFarlane, Bruce J. (1984). China's Changed Road to Development. Oxford ; New York: Pergamon Press. ISBN 978-0-08-030849-4.

Selected articlesEdit

  • "China and India: The Un-Negotiated Dispute". The China Quarterly. 43: 47–80. 1970. doi:10.1017/s030574100004474x.
  • Maxwell, Neville (1971). "India's Forward Policy". The China Quarterly. 45: 157–163. doi:10.1017/s0305741000010481.
  • Maxwell, Neville (January 1971). "The Threat from China". International Affairs. 47 (1): 31–44. JSTOR 2614677.
  • Maxwell, Neville (1999). "Sino-Indian Border Dispute Reconsidered". Economic and Political Weekly. 34 (14): 905–918. JSTOR 4407848.
  • Maxwell, Neville (2001). "Henderson Brooks Report: An Introduction". Economic and Political Weekly. 36 (14/15): 1189–1193. JSTOR 4410481.
  • Maxwell, Neville (2003). "Forty Years of Folly". Critical Asian Studies. 35 (1): 99–112. doi:10.1080/14672710320000061497.
  • Maxwell, Neville (2006). "Settlements and Disputes: China's Approach to Territorial Issues". Economic and Political Weekly. 41 (36): 3873–3881. 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 c Kai Friese (22 October 2012). ""China Was The Aggrieved; India, Aggressor In '62"". Outlook India.
  4. ^ a b Neville Maxwell, India's China War,
  5. ^ a b Gregory Clark. "Book review: India's China War". Retrieved 8 May 2013.
  6. ^ a b Hoffmann, India and the China Crisis 1990, p. 3.
  7. ^ a b c d Mehra, Parshotam (October 1970). "India's China War". India Quarterly: A Journal of International Affairs. 26 (4): 410–416. doi:10.1177/097492847002600406. ISSN 0974-9284.
  8. ^ 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.
  9. ^ a b c Garver, John W. "China's Decision for War with India in 1962" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 26 March 2009.
  10. ^ "What's the Big Idea?". Today (Singapore). 23 September 2013. Retrieved 26 December 2013.
  11. ^ "Neville Maxwell discloses document revealing that India provoked China into 1962 border war". South China Morning Post. Retrieved 16 August 2017.
  12. ^ a b c d Debasish Roy Chowdhury (31 March 2014). "Neville Maxwell interview: the full transcript". South China Morning Post. Retrieved 31 March 2014.
  13. ^ Ramachandra Guha (17 July 2005). "Past & Present: Verdicts on India". The Hindu.
  14. ^ a b Unnithan, Sandeep (18 March 2014). "Henderson Brooks report lists the guilty men of 1962". India Today. Retrieved 8 April 2014.
  15. ^ "India's Top Secret 1962 China War Report Leaked". The Diplomat. March 2014.
  16. ^ Fisher, Margaret W.; Rose, Leo E.; Huttenback, Robert A. (1963), Himalayan Battleground: Sino-Indian Rivalry in Ladakh, Praeger – via Questia
  17. ^ Raghavan, Srinath (2006). "Sino-Indian Boundary Dispute, 1948-60: A Reappraisal". Economic and Political Weekly. 41 (36): 3882–3892. JSTOR 4418679.


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