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UK says role in 1984 India raid ‘limited’ ‘Nature of assistance purely advisory’

LONDON, Feb 4, (Agencies): The British government has admitted it advised India before the deadly 1984 raid on the Golden Temple in Amritsar. Foreign Secretary William Hague told Parliament on Tuesday that British military advice had only a “limited impact” on the operation. Britain’s government had recently ordered an urgent investigation into possible UK involvement in the raid after recently declassified documents suggested a special forces officer advised the Indians.

Hague said the review “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.” The official inquiry by the Cabinet secretary was ordered after documents released under the 30-year rule suggested that a special operations officer secretly advised the Indians about how to deal with the Sikh dissidents occupying the holy site.

The storming of the Golden Temple in Amritsar was one of the most violent episodes in the Indian government’s battle against Sikh separatists, with more than 1,000 people dying, and led to a breakdown in communal relations across India. The raid on the temple located 240 miles north of New Delhi came in 1984 as an insurgency for an independent Sikh state was festering, with armed militants launching attacks in India’s Punjab to press their demands for the establishment of Khalistan, or “Land of the Pure” in the Punjabi language. The attack enraged Sikhs and led to the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi a few months later — an act that provoked anti-Sikh riots across much of northern India. The riots, in turn, further fueled the insurgency. Before it was stamped out in the late 1980s, the rebellion eventually cost more than 18,000 lives — including 329 people killed in an Air India jetliner explosion over the Atlantic Ocean blamed on Canadian-based Sikhs

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