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Policy for Declassification of War History

  • 16 Jun 2021
  • 4 min read

Why in News

The Union Defence Minister has approved a policy on archiving, declassification, compilation and publication of war and operations histories by the Ministry of Defence (MoD).

Key Points

  • Desirability of Authoritative Record:
    • 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 requirement of having war histories written with clear cut policy on declassification was recommended by the Kargil Review Committee, 2019 headed by K Subrahmanyam to analyse the lessons learnt and prevent future mistakes.
    • Post Kargil conflict, a Group of Ministers (GoM) recommendations on national security, 2001 also mentioned the desirability of an authoritative war history.
  • Provisions of Policy:
    • Transfer of Record: Each organisation under the MoD such as Services (Army, Airforce and Navy), 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 History Division will be responsible for coordination with various departments while compiling, seeking approval and publishing of war and operations histories.
    • Constitution of a Committee: For compilation of war and operations histories, the policy mandates the constitution of a committee headed by Joint Secretary, MoD and composed of representatives of the Services, Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) and other organisations and prominent military historians, if required.
    • Timeline: The policy sets clear timelines with regard to compilation and publication of war and operations histories.
      • 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 records should ordinarily be declassified (i.e. no more secret) 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.
    • Responsibility for Declassification of Records: This rests with the respective organisations as specified in the Public Record Act 1993 and the Public Record Rules 1997.
    • For Internal Consumption First: 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.
  • Declassification of Older Wars:
    • The declassification of older wars like the 1962 war and Operation Bluestar is not automatic and will be taken up on a case by case basis by a committee to be constituted under the new policy.

Source: TH

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