Produce 1963 Indo-Pak talks records: CIC to MEA
The CIC has directed the Ministry of External Affairs to produce "top secret" documents pertaining to 1963 foreign minister-level talks between India and Pakistan to decide whether they can be made public.delhi Updated: Apr 14, 2010 17:40 IST
The Central Information Commission (CIC) has directed the Ministry of External Affairs to produce "top secret" documents pertaining to 1963 foreign minister-level talks between India and Pakistan to decide whether they can be made public.
A full bench of the Commission has directed the ministry to produce all of eight files of talks between the foreign ministers of India and Pakistan -- Swaran Singh and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto respectively -- held in 1963 in the wake of India-China war in October 1962.
The ministry had earlier refused to disclose any piece of information to noted journalist Kuldeep Nayar who exercised his Right to Information seeking details of talks which reportedly hovered around Kashmir issue.
"The Commission decided that the records containing the information sought by the appellant need to be perused by the Commission and the same be produced before the Commission," the bench headed by Chief Information Commissioner Wajahat Habibullah held.
Nayar had specifically sought information available on record with the ministry related to six rounds of talks between Singh and Bhutto, which he alleged "is available neither in the archives nor elsewhere."
In his submissions, he said the Pakistani authorities had no objection to part with the information carrying their viewpoint, then why the same information was classified as 'Top Secret' by Indian authorities.
"The government is saying that these are ongoing talks hence details cannot be given. The talks were 48 years ago, how can they be considered secret now. These are important because Singh had offered something to his Pakistani counterpart which was not agreed upon. I want to know what was that offer," Nayar said.
The ministry in its submission before the Commission said information contained therein included inter alia the various concessions discussed during the talks held in 1963 and agreed to be provided by India to Pakistan, which had since been withdrawn by India; the information about "negotiating positions" between the two countries.
It said the information being sensitive in the view of ongoing talks between the two nations said information could not be divulged at this point of time.
"The contents of the files (in the eight volumes) need to be revisited to decide whether all or part of the information contained in the said files are sensitive enough to be kept confidential or whether the same can be disclosed under provisions of the RTI Act 2005," it said.
The bench said if ministry has taken any "conscious decision" not to declassify these files at a "sufficiently responsible decision making level of government" and the reasons thereof, it was important these document must be perused by the Commission.