We told you last month about revelations that Britain had aided India three decades ago in a deadly raid on the Golden Temple to remove separatist militants holed up in Sikhisim’s holiest shrine. On Tuesday, British Foreign Secretary William Hague acknowledged that British military advice had “limited impact” on the operation.
Here’s what Hague told Parliament about the June 1984 raid in Amritsar, India:
And here’s his statement in full:
“The Cabinet Secretary’s report finds that the nature of the UK’s assistance was purely advisory, limited and provided to the Indian government at an early stage; that it had limited impact on the tragic events that unfolded at the temple three months later; that there was no link between the provision of this advice and defense sales and there is no record of the [British] government receiving advance notice of the operation.”
Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi ordered the raid, known as Operation Blue Star, on the Golden Temple as part of her efforts to suppress a bloody separatist rebellion by Sikh militants. The operation killed anywhere from hundreds to thousands of people. It also cost Gandhi her life, and its repercussions are being felt in Indian politics to this day.
Revelations that British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher helped India plan the operation emerged last month when a British lawmaker told the BBC that he’d seen newly declassified documents that appeared to suggest Thatcher authorized British special forces to “collude with the Indian government on the planning, on the raid of the Golden Temple.”
That led the British government to order an inquiry into the country’s possible involvement in the raid — and Hague’s comments Tuesday. The issue is a delicate one because of Britain’s own Sikh population, but the Indian military official who led the operation has previously rejected claims of British involvement.
As we noted last month:
“The operation had a major impact on the face of Indian politics. Just months later, Gandhi was killed by her Sikh bodyguards in apparent retaliation. Her death resulted in a wave of anti-Sikh violence across India that killed thousands.
“The Sikh separatist movement raged through the 1980s and ’90s. Thousands were killed in attacks by the militants as well as in the Indian government’s suppression of the movement.”