Older records would be transferred to National Archives once war, operations histories are compiled

In a significant decision, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh has approved the policy on declassification, compilation, publication of war and 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 to the History Division of Ministry of Defence (MoD) for proper upkeep, archival and writing the histories.

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 and operations histories have been compiled.

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 the constitution of a committee headed by Joint Secretary, MoD and composed of representatives of the Services, MEA, MHA 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 and operations histories. The above-mentioned 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 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 an accurate account of the events, provide authentic material for academic research and counter the unfounded rumours.