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Post at: Aug 06 2021

New Policy for Declassification of War Histories

Recent Context

  • On June 12, 2021, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh has approved the policy on archiving, declassification and compilation/publication of war/operations histories by the Ministry of Defence.

Background

  • The Public Record Rules, 1997 – Which framed the rules of the Public Record Act, 1993 – have established a procedure for the declassification of records and their transfer to the National Archives after a period of 25 years or more.

Why war histories matter

  • War histories give an accurate account of events, provide authentic material for academic research, and help counter rumours.
  • Earlier reports on war and operations were never made public. That is set to change now because information will be collated and reporter prepared centrally.

Policy on Declassification of War Histories

Nodal Body

  • The ministry’s history division, set up in October 1953, will be responsible for coordination with various departments compiling, seeking approval and publishing war and operations histories.
  • All organizations under the MoD will transfer the records, including war diaries, letters of proceedings and operational records books to the history division for upkeep archival and writing the histories.

Committee to be constituted under the Policy

  • The policy mandates constitution of a committee headed by Joint Secretary, MOD and comprising representatives of the services, MEA, MHA and other organization, for compilation of war/operations histories.
  • The committee should be formed within 2 years of completion of war and operations.
  • Collection of records and compilation should be completed in 3 years and disseminated to all concerned.

Earlier Committees on War History

  1. Kargil Review Committee (KRC) – The KRC war headed by K. Subrahmanyam. The committee recommended the requirement of having war histories written with a clear-cut policy on declassification of war records.
  2. N.N. Vohra Committee – According to N N Vohra committee war histories should be declassified in order to analyze lessons learned and prevent future mistakes.

Conclusion

  • The government has yet to work out a uniform system for classifying, safeguarding and declassifying national security related information.
  • It needs to set up classification standards and levels of classification, and categories the classification authority, duration of classification and the process of declassification or downgrading the classification of a document in clear terms.

Yogesh Pratap Singh


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