Mike Gapes MP questioned Foreign Secretary William Hague in Parliament on Tuesday 4 February 2014 following his statement about the Cabinet Secretary’s report about the reported involvement of the Margaret Thatcher Government in the Indian government operation Blue Star at Sri Harmandir Sahib, the Golden Temple in Amritsar in June 1984.
On 13 January concerns were raised regarding two documents released to the public in the National Archives. This release has raised painful memories and deep concerns amongst many in the Sikh community in Ilford, Britain and around the world and justified demands that the full truth be told about any British involvement in those events. The two documents indicate that in February 1984, in the early stages of the crisis, the then British Government sent a military officer to give advice to the Indian Government on their contingency planning.
Following William Hague's statement, here is what Mike Gapes said and the reply by the Foreign Secretary
Mike Gapes (Ilford South) (Lab/Co-op): Those of us who have had the honour to visit the Golden Temple know that it is a place of peace and tranquillity, and that its symbolism is very significant. When the Prime Minister went to India, he visited Amritsar. He also went to Jallianwala Bagh and signed a message of condolence relating to an atrocity carried out by the British military in 1919. Would it not be appropriate for us to say something about apologising for the fact that there was minor, limited complicity in giving military advice to the Indian authorities, because otherwise it will be misinterpreted? The Prime Minister did the right thing when he went to India. Can we do something now for the Sikh community?
Mr Hague: As the hon. Gentleman says, the Prime Minister did the right thing in making that statement on other tragic events near Amritsar decades before and in expressing this country’s regret for that. That was absolutely the right thing and I think across the whole House we support that. He did that because of Britain’s responsibility for those events. Apologies go with responsibility and imply a responsibility. As I said earlier, 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. 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.