Thursday, 6 February 2014

Britain admits it helped India in planning of Operation Blue Star

Britain admits it helped India in planning of Operation Blue Star
LONDON: British foreign secretary William Hague on Tuesday said investigations have revealed UK had advised India on the planning and execution of Operation Blue Star, and that it had "limited impact" on the military action. The probe was ordered by Prime Minister David Cameron after official papers released last month suggested then prime minister Margaret Thatcher had sent an officer from the elite SAS or special air service to advise the government of India on the raid. 

Hague said the probe found no evidence that any other form of military assistance, such as equipment or training, was given to Indian authorities. One of the suggestions was to keep an element of surprise while executing Operation Blue Star, and use helicopter-borne forces to ensure minimal casualties for "a swift resolution". However, investigations reveal India didn't have helicopter capability. 

An Indian external affairs spokesman said, "Since news reports on this matter surfaced a little more than two weeks ago, the UK government has kept the government of India informed on this matter and has also just shared the outcome of the UK government's inquiry with us. We have noted the report and the statement made." 

However, Sikh bodies and the Akal Takht sought unconditional apology from 
the UK government. "This is most shameful for UK government since it has now admitted having advised the Indian government on killing of innocent devotees. Its head should tender unconditional apology at the Golden Temple," Akal Takht chief Gurbachan Singh told TOI. 

The "rigorous and thorough" investigation into Britain's role in the action against 
Sikh militants in the Golden Temple in Amritsar in 1984 by the British cabinet secretary saw a high powered team search through 200 files and over 23,000 documents. 

Hague told parliament that Britain had sent a single British military adviser to India between Feb 8 and 17, 1984, to advise 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. 

"The cabinet secretary's report concludes that the nature of the UK's assistance was purely advisory, limited and provided to the Indian government at an early stage in their planning," Hague said. 

"First, on why the UK provided advice to the Indian government, the cabinet secretary has established that in early February 1984, the then government received an urgent request to provide operational advice on Indian contingency plans for action to regain control of the temple complex," Hague said. 

"The British high commission in India recommended that the government respond positively to the request for bilateral assistance, from a country with which we had an important relationship. This advice was accepted by the then-government," he added. 

"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. This giving of military advice was not repeated. The documents show that the decision to provide advice was based on an explicit recommendation to ministers that the government should not contemplate assistance beyond the visit of the military adviser, and this was reflected in his instructions," Hague added. 

The documents also record information provided by the Indian Intelligence coordinator that after the UK 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. 

Hague said, "This is consistent with the public statement on January 15 this year by the Operation commander, Lt-Gen KS Brar, who said 'no one helped us in our planning or in the execution of the planning'. It's also consistent with an exchange of letters between Mrs Gandhi and Mrs Thatcher on June 14 and 29 1984 discussing the operation, which made no reference to any UK assistance. Those parts of the letter relevant to 
Operation Blue Star are published with the cabinet secretary's report today."

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