Rajnath Singh approves new policy for declassification of war history

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh. File   | Photo Credit: PTI

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Saturday approved a policy on archiving, declassification, compilation and publication of war and operations histories by the Ministry of Defence (MoD). However, declassification of older wars like the 1962 war is not automatic and will be taken up on case by case basis by a committee to be constituted under the new policy.


“According to the policy, records should ordinarily be declassified in 25 years. Records older than 25 years should be appraised by archival experts and transferred to the National Archives of India once the war/operations histories have been compiled,” the Ministry said on Saturday.

For internal consumption first

Asked about cases like the highly confidential Henderson Brooks report on the 1962 war with China and the Operation Bluestar of 1984, a defence official said a committee will take a view on the earlier wars and operations. The compiled history on wars and operations, within five years, will be for internal consumption first, and later the committee may decide to publicly release whole or parts of it, considering the sensitivity of the subject, the official said.


“The policy mandates constitution of a committee headed by Joint Secretary, MoD and comprising of representatives of the Services, Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) and other organisations and prominent military historians, if required, for compilation of war and operations histories.” The History Division will be responsible for coordination with various departments while compiling, seeking approval and publishing of war and operations histories.


The policy also sets clear timelines with regard to compilation and publication of war and operations histories, the Ministry said adding the committee should be formed within two years of completion of war and operations. Thereafter, collection of records and compilation should be completed in three years and disseminated to all concerned.


“The policy envisages that each organisation under the MoD such as Services, Integrated Defence Staff, Assam Rifles and Coast Guard, will transfer the records, including war diaries, letters of proceedings and operational record books, etc., to the history division of MoD for proper upkeep, archival and writing the histories.” The responsibility for declassification of records rests with the respective organisations as specified in the Public Record Act 1993 and the Public Record Rules 1997.

Desirability of authoritative record


The requirement of having war histories written with clear cut policy on declassification was recommended by the Kargil Review Committee headed by K Subrahmanyam as well as the N.N. Vohra Committee to analyse the lessons learnt and prevent future mistakes. Post Kargil conflict, a Group of Ministers (GoM) recommendations on national security also mentioned the desirability of an authoritative war history.


“Timely publication of war histories would give people accurate account of the events, provide authentic material for academic research and counter the unfounded rumours.”

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Printable version | Jul 30, 2021 5:18:39 PM |

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