Following the recent declassification of 70,000 files, India's
external affairs ministry is in the process of declassifying
another set of 220,000 files covering Pakistan, Afghanistan,
Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Iran, East Asia, Eurasia and the
Americas, a senior official said Wednesday.
"We are currently in a process of finalizing a major project to
declassify another set of 220,000 files. Records covering
Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Pakistan, Iran, Sri Lanka, East
Asia, Eurasia and the Americas are going to be covered in this
round," Pinak Chakravarty, special secretary (Public Diplomacy),
said while inaugurating a day-long international conference on the
early years of India's nuclear programme.
The conference was organised by defence ministry-funded think tank
Institute of Defence Studies and Analyses along with the Nuclear
Proliferation International History Project (NPIHP).
"This is the first time in many years that we have taken the
initiative to declassify such a large number of files from the
archives of the ministry of external affairs. We hope that this
will lead to renewed academic interest and greater understanding
of the evolution of Indian foreign policy," he added.
Throwing light on India's nuclear policy, 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
"India's nuclear doctrine, therefore, includes 'No First Use' of
nuclear weapons and non-use of nuclear weapons against non-nuclear
weapon states," he added.
Speaking on the occasion, NPIHP co-director Christian Ostermann
said the project 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".
"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," he added.
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 also advocated the "use of local and provincial archives when
central state archives remain closed" as another approach to
Welcoming the external affairs ministry's release of over 70,000
documents pertaining to India's post-1947 diplomatic and foreign
policy history, Ostermann said the 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
In his welcome speech, IDSA director general 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
Referring to the declassified files, he said some of them "pertain
to 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 second annual partners meeting of 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 seminar focussed on the 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 India's first prime minister
Jawaharlal Nehru, though opposed to the bomb, nevertheless was in
favour of India remaining ready with capabilities.
India started preparations for a peaceful nuclear explosion after
the 1964 Chinese 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.