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British role in Operation Bluestar was "purely advisory and limited": Hague

Foreign Secretary William Hague said on Tuesday that British role in Operation Bluestar was "purely advisory and limited" and had limited impact.

Zee Media Bureau

London: Foreign Secretary William Hague said on Tuesday that British role in 1984 Operation Bluestar to flush out militants from the Golden Temple was "purely advisory and limited" and had limited impact.

While addressing the British Parliament, Hague said that Britain did advise India on planning a deadly attack against Sikh separatists in the Golden Temple at Amritsar in 1984, but suggestion had limited impact.

Reuters quoted Hague as saying, "The nature of the UK`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 temple three months later."

In a statement on the conclusion of an inquiry into alleged British assistance provided by then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, Hague said, "The 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."

An analysis of nearly 200 files and 23,000 documents has confirmed that a "single British military adviser" travelled to India between February 8 and 19, 1984, to advice Indian intelligence services on contingency plans that they were drawing up for operations against the armed dissidents in the temple complex, including ground reconnaissance of the site, as per PTI news report.
"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 Bluestar was a ground assault, without the element of surprise, and without a helicopter-borne element," Hague said.

Hague said this conclusion is also consistent with an exchange of letters between former Indian prime minister Indira Gandhi and Thatcher on June 14 and 29, 1984, discussing the operation.

While admitting that some military files covering various operations were destroyed in November 2009, as part of a routine process undertaken by the ministry of defence at the 25-year review point, copies of at least some of the documents in the destroyed files were also in other departmental files.

The report by Cabinet Secretary Jeremy Heywood includes the publication of the relevant sections of five extra documents that shed light on this period, but which would not normally have been published, the minister told MPs.

"The adviser had made clear that a military operation should be put into effect only as a last resort when all attempts of negotiation had failed. It recommended the inclusion in any operation an element of surprise and the use of helicopter forces in the interests of reducing casualties and bringing about a swift resolution," Hague said.
"This giving of military advice was not repeated...And the Cabinet Secretary found no evidence of any other assistance such as equipment or training," he added.

According to IANS, Hague also substantiated the statement by Lt Gen (Retd) KS Brar, commander of 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.

Prime Minister David Cameron ordered a review into the matter last month after newly released official papers suggested that Margaret Thatcher, then prime minister, had sent an officer from the elite SAS special air service to advise the Indians on the raid.

Hague`s words are likely to upset Sikh groups and could damage India`s dynastic ruling Congress party, which faces an uphill struggle to be re-elected in national polls due by May. It was in power at the time of the raid.

The death toll remains disputed, with Indian authorities putting it in the hundreds and Sikh groups in the thousands. The storming of the temple, aimed at flushing out Sikh separatists who demanded an independent homeland, triggered the assassination of then prime minister Indira Gandhi.

With agencies inputs

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