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Defence Minister Rajnath Singh gives nod to policy on declassification of India's war records
Declassification of War Records
Image Credit: Rajnath Singh Twitter handle

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh gives nod to policy on declassification of India's war records

| @indiablooms | 12 Jun 2021, 08:19 pm

New Delhi/IBNS: In a significant development, defence minister Rajnath Singh Saturday approved the policy on declassification of war records of India, in a timely manner, to give people an accurate account of the events, provide authentic material for academic research and counter the unfounded rumours, the ministry said in a statement

According to the new policy on archiving, classification and compilation of war and operations histories, a committee headed by a joint secretary in the defence ministry and consisting of representatives of the armed forces, external affairs ministry, home ministry and prominent historians (if required) will be set up

The decision will help the Indian military that has faced uncomfortable questions over the years, including the sinking of an Indian warship in 1971 Indo Pak war, the 1999 Kargil War and questions that arose from contentious war accounts written by veterans.

However, a Hindustan Times report said it wasn't clear if the government would classify the Henderson Brooks-Bhagat report on the causes behind India's defeat in 1962 war with China.

In March 2014, Australian journalist Neville Maxwell had published portions of Henderson Brooks-Bhagat report which triggered debate on India's worst military defeat ever. The report had held responsible the entire civil and military leadership for dragging the country into a war it was not ready for.

The BJP had demanded the classification of the report but the then defence minister Arun Jaitley had told the parliament that its release would not be in the interest of the nation.

In 1987, the government classified 1947-48 Kashmir operations, while defence ministry's history division has published the histories of the 1962, 1967, 1971 war, the report said.

The government order said the records will be declassified by respective organisations as specified in the Public Records Act 1993 and Public Record Rules 1997.

“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 statement said.

The Defence ministry's History Division, set up in October 1953, will coordinate with various departments, seek approvals and publish war and operations history.

Each organisation under the Ministry of Defence such as Services, Integrated Defence Staff, Assam Rifles and Indian Coast Guard, will transfer the records, including war diaries, letters of proceedings & operational record books, etc., to the History Division of Ministry of Defence (MoD) for proper upkeep, archival and writing the histories, the statement said.

The policy has set up timeline for compilation of war and operations histories.

“The above-mentioned Committee (under the joint secretary) 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,” the statement said.

The Hindustan Times report said, citing officials, that sensitive information will not be released.

“The history of wars and operations compiled 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 HT report stated, citing official sources.

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