Britain says it advised India on 1984 Golden Temple attack

LONDON Tue Feb 4, 2014 8:05am EST

A Sikh man sits beside the wall of one of the complex of Golden Temple hit by the bullet shots during the operation Blue Star in the northern Indian city of Amritsar June 6, 2010. REUTERS/Yasir Iqbal

A Sikh man sits beside the wall of one of the complex of Golden Temple hit by the bullet shots during the operation Blue Star in the northern Indian city of Amritsar June 6, 2010.

Credit: Reuters/Yasir Iqbal

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LONDON (Reuters) - Foreign Secretary William Hague said on Tuesday an official investigation had shown Britain did advise India on planning a deadly attack against Sikh separatists in the Golden Temple at Amritsar in 1984, but said its advice had limited impact.

Prime Minister David Cameron ordered a review into the matter last month after newly released official papers suggested that Margaret Thatcher, then prime minister, had sent an officer from the elite SAS special air service to advise the Indians on the raid.

"The nature of the UK'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."

There had been no link between the provision of this advice and British defense sales to India, Hague added, and there was no record of Britain receiving advance notice of the attack.

Hague's words are likely to upset Sikh groups and could damage India's dynastic ruling Congress party, which faces an uphill struggle to be re-elected in national polls due by May. It was in power at the time of the raid.

The death toll remains disputed, with Indian authorities putting it in the hundreds and Sikh groups in the thousands. The storming of the temple, aimed at flushing out Sikh separatists who demanded an independent homeland, triggered the assassination of then prime minister Indira Gandhi.

(Reporting by William James and Andrew Osborn; Editing by Andrew Osborn)

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