Girish Chandra ‘Gary’ Saxena, the former IPS officer who headed the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) at the time of Operation Bluestar in 1984, has said that there is “little credibility” in the speculation that the Prime Ministers of India and the UK were in direct contact to discuss the imminent operation at the Golden Temple.
“Knowing the personalities involved (Indira Gandhi and Margaret Thatcher), I doubt very much if there was direct contact between the two Prime Ministers either verbally or in writing before Operation Bluestar…,” Saxena told The Indian Express during a telephonic interview.
“There is a lot of give and take between intelligence agencies on such sensitive matters, and political clearance was taken for whatever contact took place. How is this related to what actually took place in June 1984? What all is appearing now about the role of UK has no corelation with Operation Bluestar,” he said.
Declassified documents in London have established that R N Kao, the founder-director of R&AW, had sought what the British have described as “operational advice” four months before the tanks rolled into the Golden Temple. Kao was then security adviser to Indira Gandhi. British Foreign Secretary William Hague informed the House of Commons on Tuesday that a single British Special Air Services (SAS) officer travelled to India for a 10-day visit in February 1984 in response to an appeal for assistance from New Delhi, but the help that was extended was “advisory, limited and provided at an early stage”.
Hague said that the adviser had recommended “including in any operation an element of surprise and the use of helicopter-borne forces”, but the Indian Army operation that summer was “a ground assault, without the element of surprise, and without a helicopter-borne element”. Saxena, who headed R&AW from 1983 to 1986 and was subsequently appointed governor of Jammu and Kashmir, said he was bound by the oath of secrecy not to divulge details of any cooperation and dialogue on the subject, but reiterated that whatever R&AW did was “within their jurisdiction and with political clearance”.
Significantly, Saxena added that neither he nor anyone else from R&AW were “involved” in the final decision to send in the Army. “We came to know about the plans after a final decision was taken… I was not asked and did not give any advice. We were not involved in any manner and the Army too had less than a week to plan and mount it (the assault). And now, it is the British who have declassified documents. We can only come into the picture either if there is a declassification done here, or if the government authorizes us to reveal details,” he said.
The former R&AW chief described Bluestar as a “grave human tragedy” which everyone who was involved in or knew about tried their best to prevent. “It was a tragedy that you wish had not happened. But the Army did as good a job as was feasible in those circumstances and it is for historians to make a judgment on the events.”
By asserting that any advisory role played by the British had no link with the actual June 5-7 operation, Saxena has echoed the military commanders who mounted Operation Bluestar, and which matches the details put out by British cabinet secretary Jeremy Heywood, who investigated the allegations that the UK was involved in the 1984 action by the Army. Hague told the Commons on Tuesday that Heywood’s report was “consistent with the public statement on 15 January this year by the operation commander, Lieutenant-General (K S) Brar, who said that ‘no one helped us in our planning or in the execution of the planning’.”