Defence minister Rajnath Singh has approved a policy on the archiving, declassification and publication of war and operations history, the ministry announced on Saturday.
Sources said that under the new policy India could declassify certain aspects of past military operations and wars sooner than the 25-year cutoff period.
The policy envisages defence ministry organisations such as the army, navy, air force, coast guard, Integrated Defence Staff and the Assam Rifles to transfer their records, including war diaries, letters of proceedings and operational record books, to the ministry’s history division for proper upkeep, archiving and recording.
“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, as amended from time to time. 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,” said a statement from the ministry.
Having war histories written with clear-cut policy on declassification of war records was recommended by the Kargil Review Committee headed by K. Subrahmanyam as well as the N.N. Vohra Committee in order to analyse lessons learnt and prevent mistakes. After the Kargil War, a group of ministers’ recommendations on national security also mentioned the desirability of authoritative war history, the statement said.
“Timely publication of war histories would give people accurate accounts of the events, provide authentic material for academic research and counter the unfounded rumours,” it said.
The new policy will bring out a change in the workings of the history division and streamline other issues, an official said.
Under the new policy, war history is to be formulated by the defence ministry’s history department in coordination with various departments. A joint secretary from the defence ministry will head a committee that will include military, foreign ministry and home ministry representatives and prominent military historians.
“The… committee should be formed within two years of completion of war/operations. Thereafter, collection of records and compilation should be completed in three years and disseminated to all concerned,” said the defence ministry statement.
Sources in the ministry said even after the new policy, certain operations would continue to remain classified.
“The 25-year cutoff period (relaxation) will be taken up on a case-to-case basis under the new policy,” said an official.
It is still not clear if the highly confidential histories of the 1947-48 Jammu and Kashmir war, 1962 Sino-India war, 1965 and 1971 India-Pakistan wars and the Henderson Books report on the 1962 war with China would be declassified under the new policy.