India need not be apologetic about seeking Britain’s help to recapture the Golden Temple in 1984.
There is a curious excitement at the idea of an Indira Gandhi government asking former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher for advice on how to recapture the Golden Temple from the Khalistani terrorists led by Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale. There has been greater dissension in Britain, where a Sikh diaspora have pressured a few politicians to claim that this was a deplorable act.
This makes sense only if one accepts the narrative of extremist Sikhs that the Khalistanis were something more than separatist militants who terrorised their own community and the Indian nation. If anything, it could be argued that the David Cameron government should have been more forthright in saying there were no reasons for it to reconsider helping a fellow democracy in fighting terrorists — and that it would do so again.
Similarly, there is no reason India should not have looked to another government for advice or support. One of the best antidotes against international terrorism is international cooperation among government security agencies. Countering terrorism and fighting insurgencies incorporates dozens of skill sets that straddle politics, technology, strategic communications and specialised military capacities.
In the 1980s, Britain’s long-standing battle with Irish nationalist militancy, its record of tackling insurgencies and the institutional links between the Indian and British security forces made it a natural country to ask for advice. If anything, India should be pleased that today it can turn to at least a dozen countries for similar assistance.
The case for cooperation is increased tenfold when it comes to intelligence gathering which lies at the heart of preempting terrorist attacks. Other countries have also tapped into India’s own amassed experience in insurgency fighting — which is why foreign officers are a common sight in many of India’s military academies.
As Mumbai’s 26/11 attacks showed, terrorism continues to metamorphose both tactically and ideologically. There is no shame in asking for advice and assistance in fighting terrorism. If anything, it would be violative of a government’s responsibility to protect its citizens from harm.