Covid has made travel for archival research tricky, plus I have two small kids so leaving Chicago for more than 3 hours is a byzantine logistical balancing act. I’ve been using online archives a lot (like the Cold War International History Project, FRUS, CIA FOIA records, etc), and want to highlight a useful, if admittedly constrained, source for accessing documents from the National Archives of India.
The Abhilekh Patal portal has some serious interface limitations (for instance, I can’t figure out a way to get a stable hyperlink to specific documents and the search engine can be exceptionally noisy – I end up filtering heavily by collection/type and then scrolling), but nevertheless hosts some very interesting digitized documents. It’s heavily colonial-era, but there is also a lot – largely uploaded in and since 2019 – on post-independence politics, especially foreign affairs. I am mainly interested in China/Nepal/Tibet/Burma dynamics for a current project, but there is also some fascinating stuff on relations with the US, assessments of the Northeast, and some on Kashmir. The View Full Screen option makes a huge difference in viewing, though requires fast internet for the bigger documents. For more open sources on India, see this twitter thread by Manoj Saxena.
A few documents I found interesting are below, with hopefully enough identifying information that others can find them:
1. “China Foreign Policy After Mao,” 1979, File No. HI/102(6)/79) – assessment of future trajectory of Chinese foreign policy and implications for India
2. “Indian Foreign Policy toward South East Asia,” 1976 (File No. HI/103(5)/76) – very interesting echoes of today
3. “Nepal-China (i.e. Sino-Nepal) Border,” 1980/88, File No. HI/107(i)/80
4. “Note on Sino-Nepal Boundary Protocol, 1979,” 1980, File No. HI/102/14/80 – both of these center on Indian assessments of Nepal-China interactions
5. “Indo-US Relations,” 1972, File No. WII-103/17/7
6. “Discontinuation of U.S. to India,” 1972, File No. WII/230/1/72 – about post-1971 war relations with the Nixon administration
7. “China-Indo Relations,” 1975, File No. HI/121(1)/71
8. ” Setting up of an inter-departmental working group for studying building problems in Indo-Burmese relations,” 1958, File No. 3(1)-BC(B)/58
9. “Notes prepared by the Ministry of External Affairs on Bangladesh,” 1973, File No. HI/103/12/73 – one of several documents on Indian assessments of dynamics in Bangladesh
10. “Foreign involvement in insurgency in North Eastern India- Preparation of white Paper on the subject by the Ministry of Defence,” 1972, File No. NII/102(33)/72
11. “Declaration of Naga National Council Federal Govt. of Nagaland and Naga Army etc. as unlawful- Original documents (Exhibits) returned by the tribunal,” 1975, File No. 14015/4/75-NE – lots on the Naga conflict
12. “Records of Discussion,” 1981, File No. Wii/122/31/81/VOL-II – anodyne title but full of meetings with Reagan administration officials.
13. “Statehood for Manipur, Tripura and Meghalaya and connected problems of North-Eastern Region,” 1970, File. No. 10(31)/70 – 645 (!) pages of materials on the Northeast.
14. “Deployment of S.S.B. on the border along with Border Security Force,” 1980, File No.III-11039/18/80.G&Q.
15. “Tibet Policy: Top Secret notes on India & China on Tibet,” 1952, File No. 7 (1)P/52.
16. “Political Notes prepared by the Historical division Parts I, II & III,” 1971, File No. HI/121(1)/71.
17. Finally, there are numerous large files with monthly reports from various embassies – wording is often something like “Reports of other than Annual from Kathmandu (Nepal)” – Nepal, Sri Lanka, Burma, and Afghanistan all appear at least occasionally, and tons from US, China, USSR, and Saudi Arabia, among others.