Calls by several UK members of Parliament (MPs) that Britain should apologise to Sikhs have been resisted by foreign secretary William Hague on the ground that the advice given by a military adviser before Operation Bluestar did not eventually contribute to loss of life or suffering.
Hague's statement in the House of Commons on Tuesday, based on an inquiry report on revelations that Britain advised the Indira Gandhi government on flushing out Sikh militants from the Golden Temple complex in 1984, was followed by a lengthy debate.
Thirty-eight MPs participated in the debate, including Indian-origin parliamentarians MPs Virendra Sharma and Seema Malhotra, besides those whose constituencies include large Sikh communities, such as Derby, Leicester and Wolverhamptom.
At least six MPs - John McDonnell, Pat McFadden, Chris Williamson, Barry Gardiner, Mike Gapes and Adrian Bailey - suggested to Hague that Britain should apologise to the Sikh community for giving military advice, even if it was not followed by the Indian government.
Labour MP Gapes recalled that Prime Minister David Cameron had signed a message of condolence at Jallianwalla Bagh during his visit to Amritsar last year, and said an apology now would be appropriate "for the fact that there was minor, limited complicity in giving military advice" in 1984.
Hague said Cameron had expressed regret because of Britain's responsibility for the 1919 Jallianwalla Bagh massacre: "Apologies go with responsibility and imply a responsibility. (If) any of us thought that any British assistance had contributed to unnecessary loss of life and to suffering in this case, or in any other case, we would all want to say that that was a mistake and for the country to make an apology."
He added: "But that is not what is established by the cabinet secretary's report. The picture is very different from that, and we all have to base our opinions, in the end, on the facts."
Hague resisted further calls for an apology by reiterating the conclusion in cabinet secretary Jeremy Haywood's inquiry report that Britain's advice was given at an early stage (in February 1984; Operation Bluestar was carried out in June that year), that it had a limited impact and that it was anyway not followed by the Indian army that eventually planned and carried out the operation.
Several UK MPs lauded the contribution made by the Sikh community in the two World Wars as well as to the local and national life in Britain, and regretted that Hague's statement may not help assuage the hurt feelings of Sikhs in their constituencies.
No proof of Britain's involvement: Cameron
London: British Prime Minister David Cameron has asserted that there was "absolutely no" involvement of the Margaret Thatcher government in Operation Bluestar.
"There is absolutely no evidence of the UK government's involvement in the operation itself. This conclusion has been made after a thorough search of some 200 files and more than 23,000 documents," he told the UK Sikh community in a video message after an inquiry report was submitted to the House of Commons.
Cameron had ordered the inquiry after newly declassified secret documents revealed that an officer of the elite special air service (SAS) visited India to offer advice for the move against militants in the holiest Sikh shrine.
"Around four months before the events, at the request of the Indian government, a single UK military officer provided some advice. But critically, this advice was not followed, and it was a one-off," Cameron said on Tuesday night.
He said, "30 years ago, a great tragedy unfolded at Sri Harmandar Sahib in Amritsar. Many lives were lost and the scars in the Sikh community still run deep. So, when documents came to light a few weeks ago, raising the possibility that then UK government was involved in the Indian army's operation... I immediately set up an inquiry to find those answers. I tasked the cabinet secretary with getting to the truth."
He said, "I want the dialogue between this government and the Sikh community to continue."
"British Sikhs have made and continue to make a vital contribution to our national life from serving in two world wars to running businesses and playing a massive part in our communities today. I never forget this. I am grateful for it," he said.
He hoped that the probe would provide some reassurance to the Sikh community in Britain and elsewhere. PTI