After the storm generated by the release of Operation Bluestar-related papers in January, the David Cameron government has withheld the release of Punjab-related documents for 1985 and 1986 from a large cache of official documents declassified on Tuesday.
The cache released by National Archives under the 30-year rule are from the prime ministership of Margaret Thatcher, and include those related to chemical weapons, Soviet Union and the Westland affair marked by her public tiff with former defence secretary Michael Heseltine.
However, four files related to India have been withheld: three from the prime minister’s office (PMO) listed as ‘temporarily retained’, and one from the cabinet office described as ‘retained under section 3(4) of the Public Records Act,1958’.
The three PMO files withheld are: ‘Visit to UK by LK Jha, member of the Brandt Commission and adviser to Indira Gandhi: meetings with Prime Minister’ (04/07/1983-21/03/1985); ‘UK/Indian relations: situation in Punjab, activities of Sikh extremists; proposed visit to UK by Rajiv Gandhi in June 1985; part 4’ (05/03/1984-22/05/1985); and ‘Assassination of Indira Gandhi, October 1984: Prime Minister’s visit to India to attend funeral’ (31/10/1984-12/12/1984).
The cabinet office file withheld is listed as ‘India: Political’ (04/05/1979-08/08/1985).
What it means
A cabinet office spokesperson told HT: “When files are ‘temporarily retained’, it means the files are required for administrative purposes as the record review process is not yet complete. We are working towards transferring the remaining 1986 records in early 2015.”
The January cache had included papers that suggested that the Indira Gandhi government had sought, and the Thatcher government had extended, British advice on removing Sikh extremists from the Golden Temple in 1984, creating a storm and demands for an official apology. The Cameron government set up an inquiry by the cabinet secretary following the January revelations.
Announcing conclusions from the inquiry report, former foreign secretary William Hague resisted calls in February in the House of Commons for an apology by stating that Britain’s advice was given at an early stage (in February 1984; Operation Bluestar was carried out in June 1984), 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.
Visit to UK by LK Jha, member of the Brandt Commission and adviser to Indira Gandhi: meetings with Prime Minister.
UK/Indian relations: situation in Punjab, activities of Sikh extremists; proposed visit to UK by Rajiv Gandhi in June 1985; part 4.
Assassination of Indira Gandhi, October 1984: Prime Minister’s visit to India to attend funeral.