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'Thatcher backed Indira after Operation Bluestar'

world Updated: Jan 17, 2014 08:32 IST
Prasun Sonwalkar
Prasun Sonwalkar
Hindustan Times

Former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher fully supported Indira Gandhi’s efforts to apply the ‘healing touch’ in the aftermath of Operation Bluestar in 1984 and assured her of steps to deal with pro-Khalistan elements operating in Britain at the time.

Gandhi wrote to Thatcher on 9 and 14 June 1984 (Operation Bluestar ended on 10 June). The letters were about Sri Lanka and developments in trouble-torn Punjab. Her 14 June letter to Thatcher was specifically about Punjab.

In her reply, Thatcher wrote on 30 June 1984: “These have been anxious weeks for you, involving difficult decisions. I have followed closely your efforts to restore calm there, and I very much hope that the ‘healing touch’ for which you have called will open the way to a peaceful and prosperous future for that troubled region”.

Thatcher’s reply sent by telegram to New Delhi is among several documents de-classified and released by National Archives here. They include controversial documents of February 1984 that suggest that India sought, and Thatcher agreed to provide, advice from Britain’s special forces to flush out Sikh militants from the Golden Temple.

Thatcher’s 30 June letter to Gandhi reflects the close relationship between the two leaders. Gandhi had raised concerns in her letter about pro-Khalistan elements operating from Britain and the effect of their activities on the tense situation in India.

Thatcher wrote: “I well appreciate your concern about the potential security threat posed by extremists outside India. We are determined not to allow our traditional freedoms to be abused by those who seek to use violence for political ends”.

“I know that certain remarks carried by the media in Britain have caused distress in India. We have made sure the police are aware of these statements, and they are investigating them. As you know, the media are independent in Britain, as they are in India. This means that the government does not intervene in media decisions, however much we may personally regret them”.

Thatcher went on: “I know that you are also concerned about the safety of your government’s personnel and premises in this country. We firmly intend to fulfil our responsibility to protect them. The police are devoting considerable resources to this task. They will of course continue to need the fullest cooperation and assistance from your people”.

Thatcher’s government had curtailed the activities of the pro-Khalistan leader, Jagjit Singh Chauhan, who gave a controversial interview to the BBC on 12 June 1984.