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Operation Blue Star: India to take up with Britain

Posted on Jan 14 2014 | IBNS

New Delhi, Jan 14 : Amid an uproar over the reports that late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had taken the assistance of Britain in planning the Operation Blue Star in 1984 to flush out militants from the Golden Temple, India's external affairs ministry said it would take up the issue with the UK government at the right time.

After Sikh members of the House of Lords in London demanded explanations on claims that former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher's government had helped her counterpart Indira Gandhi plan the 'Operation Blue Star' in 1984, Indian Ministry of External Affairs Tuesday said they will take up the issue with the British government when something factual emerged.

"At this stage, we do not have any other information other than news reports. Of course this is a matter that we will now now take it up with our UK counterpart and seek information from them. I have nothing further to say because these are reports purely in media and no factual information have been shared with us so far," MEA spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin said.

The operation led to the eventual assassination of Indira Gandhi by her own Sikh bodyguards a few months later on Oct 31, 1984, triggering a nationwide anti-Sikh riots.

Labour MP Tom Watson and Lord Indarjit Singh had sought explanations following the release of recently de-classified documents which indicated that Thatcher had sent Britain's Special Air Service (SAS) officers to help India plan the raid in the Golden Temple in Amritsar in 1984.

British Prime Minister David Cameron has directed his Cabinet Secretary to probe the claims.

"These events led to a tragic loss of life and we understand the very legitimate concerns that these papers will raise. The Prime Minister has asked the Cabinet Secretary to look into this case urgently and establish the facts," a UK government spokesperson said in a statement issued on Monday night.

Meanwhile, the revelations has resulted in a political uproar in India.

Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley in his blog said that Indian government was in dialogue with the British Government on the plan to remove the dissident Sikhs from the holy Golden Temple.

"Those in the Government of India have recorded these incidents differently. I was amongst those present at the release of Dr. PC Alexander's memoirs a few years ago. He was the Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister in May-June 1984 and perhaps one of the best witnesses to what was going on. A chapter in his book on the Operation Blue Star gives an impression that it is only when the dialogue between Dr. PC Alexander and Sant Longowal failed that General Vaidya was called towards the end of May 1984 and asked to get ready for a military operation," Jaitley said in his blog.

"Did the Government of India take the necessary intelligence and political inputs as to the impact the military action would have on the Sikhs, one of the most patriotic communities? Indeed that was not a consideration for the Government of India. The fall-out of 'Operation Blue Star' was not only the alienation of the Sikh community but the eventual assassination of Mrs. Indira Gandhi and the massacre of Sikhs across the country," he wrote.

"Thus, contrary to what we have been told that it was the collapse of the dialogue in May, 1984 that led to the 'Operation Blue Star', the Government of India was in dialogue with the British Government on the plan to remove the dissident Sikhs from the holy Golden Temple," Jaitley wrote.

He also asked that whether any other country was also involved in the operation.

"Making public of this classified document after a period of thirty years as a part of declassification of confidential documents shows that there was a significant foreign hand behind the advice given to Mrs. Indira Gandhi to proceed in a particular manner. The Indian Army is informed only towards the end of May 1984. The political consultation within the Government on the subject was minimal. Was any other country also consulted on this subject?"

"If British Government was being consulted in February 1984, it only lends credence to the fact that Government of India neither believed in nipping the problem at the initial stage nor in exploring alternative methods of evacuating the extremists from the Golden Temple. It wanted to invade the sacred precincts of the Golden Temple no matter even if it hurt the national interest and certainly the interests of the Sikhs," the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader wrote.

"We are now having some of the British documents becoming public. In the next few months, more documents between the period February to June 1984 would become public on account of the expiry of the limitation of 30 years. It is about time that the Government of India decided to tell us the truth as to what the real
facts were. This would enable the people of India to conclude whether 'Operation Blue Star' was a strategic miscalculation," he wrote.

A Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) leader has said, "I am absolutely astonished that Indira Gandhi invited Britain for assistance in our internal affairs."

Meanwhile, Lt Gen (Retd) K S Brar, who led the Operation Blue Star, told media that it was fully planned and executed by Indian military commanders and there was no foreign aid to his knowledge.

The documents being referred were released by the National Archives in London under the 30-year declassification rule as part of a series over the New Year.

As reported in media, a letter marked "top secret and personal" dated February 23, 1984, nearly four months before the incident in Amritsar, titled 'Sikh Community', reads: "The Indian authorities recently sought British advice over a plan to remove Sikh extremists from the Golden Temple in Amritsar."

"The Foreign Secretary decided to respond favourably to the Indian request and, with the Prime Minister's agreement, an SAD (sic) officer has visited India and drawn up a plan which has been approved by Mrs Gandhi. The Foreign Secretary believes that the Indian Government may put the plan into operation shortly," the controversial letter said.

The operation had then left more than 1,000 people dead.

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