List of declassified files of the Ministry of External Affairs from 1903-1972




Ministry of external affairs declassifies 70,000 documents

Oct 26, 2012, 09.34PM IST

 TNNIndrani Bagchi ]

NEW DELHI: India's starchy foreign office is loosening its laces. Quietly, the ministry of external affairs (MEA) has been declassifying official documents that have been held under wraps for the past 65 years, signaling a welcome change in an otherwise possessive mindset.

The documents are a trickle, but they are coming. Pinak Chakrabarty, special secretary in MEA, recently announced the declassification of 70,000 documents, going up all the way until 1972. This despite the fact that according to Indian law, the government has to declassify documents 25 years old. After the Right to Information Act, this has been reduced to 20 years.

Chakraborty said that 12,388 files have been handed over to the National Archives. "These files include more than 3000 files relating to North and South America, 1,095 files relating to Eurasia, more than 1,700 files relating to the United Nations, 702 files on Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran and more than 5,100 files on Policy, Planning and Research," he said.

Chakraborty added that more files are being "scrubbed" before they are handed over to the archives — there are many, over 280,000 that MEA officials still need to go into.

The trouble is the declassification process depends heavily on the head of the territorial division. Therefore, joint secretaries, who are generally overworked, are also tasked with declassification decisions. Since they cannot afford to get this wrong, the default response is to delay. There is a definite need to create an alternative system. Chakraborty said MEA was toying with several ideas, including enlisting the help of some retired officials for the task.

Then there are the "top secret" documents that will probably never get touched. There have been joint secretaries who have famously declared that declassification of documents like the 1962 China war ones would only be done "over their dead body".

This love of secrecy has emasculated any serious historical or analytical work on contemporary Indian history. Most retellings of the 1962 war are by hearsay or from personal memoirs by eye-witnesses or those that served when monumental decisions were taken. That cannot possibly constitute serious strategic thinking, because in the absence of adequate dissemination of official information, strategists and historians can only see a partial truth.

But much more than that, there needs to grow a sense that almost all official interactions between Indian and foreign leaders serve a historical purpose. History is made not only through official documentation, but also through conversations between world leaders. There should be some kind of mechanism by which these interactions are recorded for posterity. For instance, Indian researchers should be able to access the conversations between PM Manmohan Singh and say, US President George W Bush, during the nuclear deal. Twenty years later, the White House transcripts of these conversations will be made public.


List of declassified files of the Ministry of External Affairs from 1903-1972

List complied from the website of the Ministry of External Affairs, Public Diplomacy division. For more details visit

NOTE: This is only the list of names of MEA files in National Archives of India. To know how to access the file. Click Here.

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