London/New Delhi, Feb 4 :
British Foreign Secretary William Hague Tuesday confirmed that Britain had advised the then Indian government ahead of the June 1984 storming of the Golden Temple by the Indian army but clarified that it had no operational involvement in Operation Bluestar.
Making a statement in the British parliament, Hague cited the report filed by the British cabinet secretary following instructions from Prime Minister David Cameron to investigate the matter.
The Indian external affairs ministry spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin said in New Delhi that the British government has kept India “informed on this matter” since it surfaced more than two weeks ago.
He said Britain has also “shared the outcome of the UK government’s enquiry with us. We have noted the report and the statement made”.
Hague observed that two papers released Jan 13 this year to the public by the National Archives raised speculations about Britain’s involvement in Operation Blue Star.
He said: “Within hours of the documents coming to light, the prime minister instructed the cabinet secretary to carry out an urgent investigation in four critical areas: Why advice was provided to the Indian authorities, what was the nature of that advice, what impact it had on Operation Blue Star, and whether parliament was misled.”
According to Hague, the investigation found that the British government in February 1984 did receive an “urgent request (from the then Indian government) to provide operational advice on Indian contingency plans for action to regain control of the temple complex”.
After getting the green signal from the British high commission in New Delhi, the British government sent a military adviser to India.
“He (the cabinet secretary) has established that a single British military adviser travelled to India between Feb 8 and 17, 1984, to advise the Indian intelligence services and special group on contingency plans that they were drawing up for operations against armed dissidents in the temple complex, including ground reconnaissance of the site,” he said.
“The adviser’s assessment made clear that a military operation should only be put into effect as a last resort, when all attempts at negotiation had failed. It recommended including in any operation an element of surprise and the use of helicopter-borne forces, in the interests of reducing casualties and bringing about a swift resolution.”
Hague said that after the British military adviser’s visit in February, the Indian Army took over lead responsibility for the operation and the main concept behind the operation changed.
“The cabinet secretary’s report includes an analysis by current military staff of the extent to which the actual operation in June 1984 differed from the approach recommended in February by the UK military adviser. Operation Blue Star was a ground assault, without the element of surprise, and without a helicopter-borne element,” he stated.
The cabinet secretary’s report, he said, found “that the nature of Britain’s assistance was purely advisory, limited and provided to the Indian government at an early stage”.
“It had limited impact on the tragic events that unfolded at the Golden Temple three months later, there was no link between the provision of this advice and defence sales and there was no record of the government receiving advance notice of the operation,” he added.
He also substantiated the statement by Lt Gen (Retd) K.S. Brar, who commanded the operation, made Jan 15 this year that “no one helped us in our planning or in the execution of the planning”.
“But I hope this investigation and the open manner in which it has been conducted will provide reassurance to the Sikh community, to this House, and to the public, and in that spirit I present it to the House,” Hague concluded.
The Indian government headed by then prime minister Indira Gandhi had ordered storming of the Golden Temple June 1984 to flush out Sikh extremists holed up inside the temple revered by Sikhs.