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Defence Ministry may declassify war-related papers after 25 years

Defence minister Rajnath Singh has approved the policy on archiving, declassification and compilation or publication of war or operations histories by the ministry, according to an official statement. (ANI)Premium
Defence minister Rajnath Singh has approved the policy on archiving, declassification and compilation or publication of war or operations histories by the ministry, according to an official statement. (ANI)

  • A statement from the ministry said that defence minister Rajnath Singh had approved the policy on archiving, declassification and compilation or publication of war by the ministry of defence

NEW DELHI: India may declassify certain papers related to past military operations and wars, sooner than the 25-year cut-off period, under a new policy announced by the defence ministry on Saturday.

Defence minister Rajnath Singh has approved the policy on archiving, declassification and compilation or publication of war or operations histories by the ministry, according to an official statement.

Analysts say the aim of the policy is to usher in transparency.

Saturday’s move is part of having war histories written with a clear-cut policy on declassification of military records. This was one of the recommendations made by the 1999 Kargil Review Committee, headed by K. Subrahmanyam. An earlier report submitted by N.N. Vohra in 1993 had also made a similar suggestion.

While the new policy is for internal use, one of the people cited above said that certain aspects of past operations and wars could be made public sooner, if needed.

According to the policy that existed earlier, records were to be classified till only 25 years after the operation, but with this new policy certain records could be available in the public domain sooner than that.

The history division of the defence ministry will be responsible for coordinating with various departments while compiling, seeking approval and publishing the war or operations histories. The new policy seeks the constitution of a committee—within two years of completing a war or an operation—headed by joint secretary of the defence ministry and comprising representatives of all the wings of the military, foreign ministry, home ministry and other organizations. After this, the collection of records and the compilation of history should be completed in three years and disseminated to all concerned, the policy states.

Under the new policy, the Army, Air Force, Navy, Integrated Defence Staff, Assam Rifles and Indian Coast Guard will transfer records, including war diaries, letters of proceedings and operational record books among others, to the history division for proper upkeep, archiving and writing histories. The responsibility for declassification of records, however, lies with the respective organisations as specified in the Public Records Act 1993 and Public Records Rules 1997. The decision on the 25-year cut-off period will be taken on a case-to-case basis, under the new policy.

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

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