MEA To Declassify A Large Number of Documents, Says Pinak Chakravarty

October 10, 2012

New Delhi: Following the recent declassification of 70,000 files, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) is in the process of “finalizing a major project to declassify another set of 220000 files- records covering: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Pakistan, Iran and Sri Lanka, East Asia, Eurasia and the Americas” revealed Mr Pinak Chakravarty, Special Secretary, Public Diplomacy, Ministry of External Affairs. Mr Chakravarty was addressing at the International Seminar on ‘Early Years of Nuclear Cooperation and Non-Proliferation: A Dialogue on Nuclear Historicities’ organised by the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses along with the Nuclear Proliferation International History Project (NPIHP) on October 10, 2012

Throwing light on India's nuclear policy, Mr Chakravarty said it “remains firmly rooted in the basic tenet that our country's national security, in a world of nuclear proliferation, lies either in universal, non-discriminatory disarmament or in the exercise of the principle of equal and legitimate security for all”, adding that “India’s nuclear doctrine, therefore, includes ‘No First Use’ of nuclear weapons and non-use of nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapon states”.

Also Speaking on the occasion was co-director of NPIHP, Dr Christian Ostermann, who said that NPIHP aims at making “a contribution to policy analysis by deepening understanding of the goals, interests, the situational circumstances, and the character of nuclear and non-nuclear states in relation to their nuclear outlooks and strategies, that is not a history of the weapons themselves, but their underpinning politics.” He further added that “only by looking at the underlying politics can we begin to explain the widely divergent nuclear postures chosen by states like China, Pakistan, or the United States.”

Dr Ostermann described “Triangulation and multilateralization of our archival efforts through a global network of researchers and institutions” as one of the “most fruitful methodological approaches” to “excavate the documentations from the frequently uncooperative clutches of security establishments and archives.” He further advocated the “use of local and provincial archives when central state archives remain closed” as another approach to gather information.

Welcoming MEA’s recent unprecedented release of over 70,000 documents pertaining to India's post-1947 diplomatic and foreign policy history, Dr Ostermann said that the Ministry’s decision “effectively ends an era in which India’s role in the Cold War was researched and told based on documents from other countries—from Russia, China or Hungary.”

Earlier, in his welcome speech, Director General, IDSA, Dr Arvind Gupta said “Framing a proper Indian perspective, understanding an interpretation on these key issues and redressing the knowledge gaps is one primary objective of our nuclear history project. We seek to undertake this process by exploring all available sources from archives and inputs shared through oral history interviews.”

Referring to MEA’s decision of declassifying more documents, Dr Gupta said, “The Ministry of External Affairs’ recent declassification of a large number of files pertaining to India’s foreign policy is a step in the right direction. Some of these files, which are now available with the National Archives, pertain to the nuclear issues. More files need to be declassified.”

The seminar brought together veterans from the Indian policy community and scholars, with international historians and experts to reminisce, discuss and debate on the many milestones of the origins of international nuclear cooperation, as well as the early years of India’s nuclear programme and the dynamics of decision-making during the crucial years from 1950s to the 1970s.

The seminar is part of the 2nd Annual Partners Meeting of the Nuclear Proliferation International History Project (NPIHP). IDSA is a leading partner in the NPIHP, which is spearheaded by the Woodrow Wilson Centre, Washington DC. The NPIHP seeks to create an international network of scholars and research institutions to undertake archival research on the history of nuclear weapons, non-proliferation and dynamics of nuclear decision making processes.

The day long seminar focussed on early years of international cooperation, nuclear decision making during the Nehru years and India’s nuclear decision making 1964-74. Leading Scholars, journalists, experts, and diplomats took part in the seminar.

Several scholars pointed out that Nehru, though opposed to the bomb, never the less was in favour of India remaining ready with capabilities. India started preparations for a peaceful nuclear explosion after the 1964 chemical tests. Participants also pointed out that despite the apathy to possession of nuclear bombs Indian leaders did not discontinue India’s weapons programme at any stage.

Participants included leading scientist Shri K. Santhanam, Veteran Diplomat Shris M.K. Rasgotra, eminent journalist Shri Inder Malhotra, leading expert on nuclear issue, Prof Bharat Karnad etc.

Addresses by Mr Pinak Chakravarty and Dr Christian Ostermann available on IDSA website.