The Niagara Falls Review
Brits helped plan temple attack
LONDON — Britain secretly helped India plan a deadly assault on Sikh separatists holed up in the Golden Temple in Amritsar in 1984, the government said on Tuesday, saying London’s influence was limited and there was therefore no need for an apology.
Prime Minister David Cameron ordered a review into the matter last month after the government inadvertently released official papers suggesting that Margaret Thatcher, then prime minister, had sent an officer from the elite SAS special air service to advise India on the raid.
The unplanned release upset British Sikhs, whom Cameron is courting ahead of a national election in 2015, and in India it triggered nationalist criticism of the dynastic ruling Congress party, which faces an uphill struggle to be re- elected in a national vote due by May.
Congress, under then-prime minister Indira Gandhi, was in
The nature of the U.K.’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
Foreign Secretary William Hague power at the time of the raid on the Golden Temple, Sikhism’s holiest shrine.
The death toll in the attack remains disputed, with Indian authorities putting it in the hundreds and Sikh groups in the thou- sands.
In a statement to parliament, Foreign Secretary William Hague said an official investigation by Britain’s top civil servant had confirmed that an SAS officer had been dispatched to India in 1984 — at the request of the Indian government — to help plan the assault staged in June of that year.
“The nature of the U.K.’s assistance was purely advisory, limited and provided to the Indian government at an early stage,” Hague told parliament. “It had limited impact on the tragic events that unfolded at the temple three months later.”
The SAS officer had advised the Indians that a military operation should only be a last resort, Hague said. Indian forces had not acted upon the advice, he said.
The storming of the temple, aimed at flushing out Sikh separatists who demanded an independent homeland, led to the assassination of Gandhi in October 1984 when two of her Sikh bodyguards shot her in the garden of her residence.