Even as the UK government has ordered a probe into reports — based on recently declassified official documents — that the Margaret Thatcher government had in 1984 advised India in executing Operation Bluestar through its Special Air Service (SAS), a book by Bahukutumbi Raman — one of the founders of the Research and Analysis Wing — first published in 2007, had stated that two officers of Britain’s Military Intelligence 5 (MI5) had visited the Golden Temple and advised Prime Minister Indira Gandhi to be patient. They also advised her to avoid action or use of police as suggested by Indian intelligence agencies at that time.
One had an impression that (R N) Kao felt that it would be better to be patient for some weeks instead of taking any precipitate action which might prove counterproductive or, if immediate action was considered necessary, to use the police or central paramilitary forces instead of the Army…I was given to understand that at the request of Kao, two officers of British Security Service (MI5) visited the Golden Temple as tourists and gave a similar account to Indira Gandhi — be patient and avoid action or use the police.
“There was also concern in the intelligence community over the likely repercussions of the Army raid on the discipline of large number of Sikh soldiers in the Army, but senior Army officers were confident that there would be no negative impact on the Sikh soldiers. Ultimately, when the raid was made their confidence was belied and the concerns of intelligence community proved correct. There were instances of resentment openly expressed — and even violence at one place — in the Army, but these were brought under control after some initial anxiety,” Raman wrote.
Raman died in July last year in Chennai after a prolonged battle with cancer. R N Kao was the first chief of RAW and senior adviser to Indira Gandhi when Operation Bluestar took place. He died in 2002.
“It is now clear that the British government was engaged and their advice sought. However, there is a grey area as to what they had advised and whether that advice was taken into account or just ignored by Indira Gandhi. All these puzzling questions need clear answers,” said Kanwarpal, a spokesperson for radical Sikh organisation Dal Khalsa.
“Raman, who headed the Sikh Extremists’ Division, has also revealed in his book that officers of the British Security Service (MI5) visited the Golden Temple to assess the ground situation before giving their advice to the then Indian PM Indira Gandhi. The revelations by British MP Tom Watson on the basis of top secret documents found at British National Archives, which have now been made public, reinforce the disclosure made by former R&AW official,” Kanwarpal said.
Sources said Ashish Khetan will be the vice-chairman of the commission.