"India chose to ignore U.K.’s limited advice on Blue Star"

The United Kingdom’s role in Operation Blue Star in June 1984 was limited to military advice, sought by the Indian government in February of that year, on Indian contingency plans for an operation against militants who were in occupation of the Sri Harmandir Sahib, Secretary of State William Hague said in a statement before the House of Commons on Tuesday.

But for this advice there was no other UK military assistance, such as training or equipment supply to India for Operation Bluestar, nor did the UK government link the provision of this advice to arms sales, he said.

Further, the military advice had “limited impact” on the ground as the Indian Army took the lead in the actual operation, which “differed significantly” from the approach that had been outlined by the UK military officer, the House heard.

The “nature of the UK’s assistance was purely advisory, limited and provided to the Indian government at an early stage in their planning” Mr. Hague said.

These are the conclusions from a home-office inquiry conducted by the Cabinet Secretary on the order of Prime Minister David Cameron following disclosures in the British media of documents that suggested ongoing British involvement in Operation Blue Star, in which it was also claimed that the British Parliament had been misled on the issue. The documents were obtained when official British documents were made public under the 30-year rule.

The inquiry looked into why the UK government agreed to a request from India to provide military advice on their plans for an operation at Harmandir Sahib; the nature of the assistance provided; the impact of that assistance on the operation; and whether Parliament was misled at the time on the issue.

The Inquiry into the “tragic events at Amritsar”, Mr Hague said, was based on a scrutiny of 23,000 documents, out of which only a “limited number” related to Operation Blue Star. One file on the provision of military advice to India was destroyed along with other military files in 2009. However, some of these documents were preserved in other departments and together “provide a consistent picture of what happened.”

A UK military adviser did indeed visit India between 8-17 February,and made a recce of the temple complex with the Indian Special Group. On February 13, he reported to the Indian authorities, telling them that armed invention should be the “last resort.” He recommended a “surprise” attack with helicopters to drop troops in as a critical part of the plan.

In the event, the Inquiry notes, “there were significant differences between the actual June operation, and the advice from the UK military officer in February.”The actual strategy, as made public by India on 13 June 1984, “was a ground assault, preceded by a warning, without a helicopter-borne element, which became a step-by-step clearance supported by armour and light artillery.”

The influential though politically divided Sikh community has responded in diverse voices to Mr. Hague’s statement.

Ajit Sat-Bhambra, writer and publisher of Asian Affairs, Panjabilok and Urdu said, “This is a storm in a tea cup. If Sinn Fein armed terrorists had stormed St Peter’s Cathedral in Falls Street, Befast, holding people hostage, Mrs Thatcher would have responded in the same way, and quicker.”

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Printable version | Jul 1, 2022 2:26:54 pm |