As the country gets ready to celebrate the 17th Kargil Vijay Diwas Tuesday, the official history of the three-month conflict is being written in the Ministry of Defence. The two-year long project, which started in January last year, is being headed by historian Srinath Raghavan. But the army, which played the leading role in evicting Pakistani intruders from the mountain ranges, is not sharing any operational detail with the history division of the ministry.
Although army headquarters has transferred the six-volume After Action Report, prepared by the Directorate General of Military Operations (DGMO) and Northern Command, to the history division, it has refused to part with any other file, including war diaries of all divisions and brigades which participated in the war.
The DGMO has also declined to share its own war diary for the period. The army, sources said, has taken the view that material contained in these documents have current operational value and cannot be declassified at this stage.
Lt General (retd) Vinod Bhatia, former DGMO, told The Indian Express, “It is important to write the history of the Kargil War but every operational detail cannot be shared. So many of our current deployments in the area are based on what happened in 1999, and the DGMO can’t possibly share them. Also, the tactics we used, our launch pads for operations, we can’t let that information out even now.”
“Our operational and logistics build-up, location of reserves etc. are not a matter of detail, but one of military capability and hence, need not be in the public domain,” Bhatia said.
Sources in the air and naval headquarters, however, said that they have given everything related to the Kargil War to the history division.
Senior army officers contend that it is too early to write the history of the Kargil War. “If the defence ministry had asked us before starting the project, we would have told them to delay it by at least 5-7 years,” a senior army officer told The Indian Express.
Sources said the idea for writing the official history of the Kargil War was mooted in the defence ministry in 2014. Unlike other war histories which had been written by official historians from the ministry’s history division, the ministry decided to get an external historian for the project. From a shortlist, historian Srinath Raghavan, a former army officer and senior fellow at Centre for Policy Research in Delhi, was selected for the project in December 2014.
The project, sources said, started in January 2015 and the history is to be submitted by the end of this year. A team of two research assistants was sanctioned by the ministry to help Raghavan. As part of the agreement, the three, who have signed the Official Secrets Act, can only access documents in the history division and had to type the history on official computers of the division.
By February 2015, a four-member inter-services team from the army, navy, air force and integrated defence staff headquarters was put in place to coordinate between the history division and the services. The services headquarters are supposed to transfer all official files and documents pertaining to the operations, which the army refused to do.
The denial of this material led to protracted correspondence between the history writing team, defence ministry and the army headquarters. In December last year, after directions from Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar, the DGMO assured the history division that the army will try and answer specific queries raised by the team but will not share any documents.
The history division which came into existence in October 1953, has compiled and published 20 volumes so far, including that of the 1948 Kashmir conflict, 1965 India-Pakistan war and the 1971 Bangladesh war. The official histories of the 1962 India-China conflict, Siachen conflict and India’s Sri Lanka operations (1987-1990) have not been declassified and published so far.
Srinath Raghavan declined to comment on the subject. The defence ministry, which confirmed that the official history of the Kargil War is being written, declined to answer questions.