India forms policy to compile, declassify war histories-military ops

Indian National Army

India has for the first time formed a policy to compile, archive, declassify, and publish military operations and war histories.

Earlier there was no such provision. Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Saturday approved the policy on archiving, declassification and compilation, publication of war, operations histories by the Ministry of Defence.

“The policy envisages that 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 and operational record books, etc., to the History Division of Ministry of Defence (MoD) for proper upkeep, archival and writing the histories,” the Ministry of Defence stated.

The responsibility for declassification of records rests with the respective organisations as specified in the Public Record Act 1993 and 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 the ministry.

The History Division will be responsible for coordination with various departments while compiling, seeking approval and publishing of war and operations histories.

The policy mandates constitution of a committee headed by Joint Secretary, MoD and comprising of representatives of the Services, Ministry of External Affairs, Ministry of Home Affairs and other organisations and prominent military historians, if required, for compilation of war and operations histories.

The policy also set clear timelines with regard to compilation and publication of war, operations histories.

“The Committee should be formed within two years of completion of war/operations,” the ministry said.

Thereafter, collection of records and compilation should be completed in three years and disseminated to all concerned.

The requirement of having war histories written with clear cut policy on declassification of war records was recommended by Kargil Review Committee headed by K. Subrahmanyam as well as N. N. Vohra Committee in order to analyse lessons learnt and prevent future mistakes.

Post Kargil War, GoM recommendations on national security also mentioned the desirability of 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,” the ministry stated.

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