No Evidence of British Role in Op Bluestar Yet: Cameron

No Evidence of British Role in Op Bluestar Yet: Cameron

Prime Minister David Cameron today said there was no evidence so far to suggest that elite British special forces played a role in the 1984 Operation Bluestar to flush out Sikh militants holed up in the Golden Temple.

"I don't want to prejudge the outcome, but I would note that so far it has not found any evidence to contradict the insistence by senior Indian army commanders responsible at the time that the responsibility for this was carried out solely by the Indian army," he told Parliament.

Cameron's remarks came while fielding questions from opposition MPs on claims that the country's Special Air Services (SAS) commanders helped out with the military operation to flush out Sikh militants holed up in the Golden Temple on orders of former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

"I think it is important to put that, but it is important to get to the bottom of this...The findings of the official inquiry into the incident will be made public," Cameron said, a day after ordering an urgent probe into the decision by Thatcher's government in 1984.

Cameron has asked Cabinet Secretary Jeremy Heywood to conduct the investigation after documents declassified suggested a British special forces officer advised the Indians on carrying out the attack.

The claims have emerged from documents released by the National Archives in London under the 30-year declassification rule as part of the series over the New Year.

Labour MP Tom Watson and Pat McFadden had raised the issue in the House of Commons, demanding full disclosure of the issue.

Watson and Lord Indarjit Singh had demanded an explanation after the documents made public indicated that the officer of Britain's SAS was dispatched to help India plan for the raid on the Golden Temple, an operation that left over 1,000 people dead.

Cameron said the assault had left "deep scars" and "incredibly strong feelings that exist to this day".

Sikh groups in the UK have claimed the latest developments prove a deeper controversy that they had always suspected. 

A "top secret and personal" letter, dated February 23, 1984, nearly four months before the raid in Amritsar, and titled "Sikh Community", stated: "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 letter said.

The file, contents of which have been seen by PTI, also contains notes on some missing letters dated February 3, 23 and 27, 1984, which have been "retained under Section 3(4) of the Public Records Act of 1958".

"These documents prove what Sikhs have suspected all along, that plans to invade the Golden Temple went back months even though the Indian government was claiming even weeks before that there were no such plans," Lord Singh, the director of the Network of Sikh Organisations in the UK who also plans to raise the issue in the House of Lords, said.

Five months after Operation Bluestar, Gandhi was assassinated by her Sikh bodyguards in retaliation for the raid on the Golden Temple.

Later, in a statement issued by Downing Street, Cameron said: "What happened at Amritsar 30 years ago led to a tragic loss of life and must never be forgotten. I know that 30 years on from this dreadful incident and the events that occurred in the months and years afterwards remain a source of deep pain to Sikhs everywhere and it was right that Prime Minister Singh apologised for what happened.

"Last year I went to the Golden Temple and I saw for myself its beauty and its calm, and what a special place it holds in the heart of Sikh people around the world."

Cameron reassured the public, especially the Sikh community, that the inquiry will be thorough and transparent.

"I completely understand the concerns that the documents raise, which is why as soon as I heard about them I asked the Cabinet Secretary to urgently look into the role played by the UK Government and to establish the facts. That process is underway and I'd like to reassure the public, especially the Sikh community here in Britain and around the world, that the inquiry will be thorough, transparent and will get to the truth."

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