Friday, 2 January 2015

Pakistani Boat Blows Up Off Gujarat Coast: Unanswered Questions

Pakistani Boat Blows Up Off Gujarat Coast: Unanswered Questions
NEW DELHI Was the Pakistani boat which sank off the coast of Porbandar in Gujarat in the early hours of January 1 carrying "explosives" or was it just part of a flourishing smuggling racket between India and Pakistan and carrying much harmless cargo like diesel?

The Ministry of Defence (MoD), in its written statement issued earlier today, said the Coast Guard had intercepted a "suspect boat carrying explosives" that was "planning some illicit transaction in Arabian Sea." A transaction is necessarily between two parties.

Also, sources tell NDTV that Indian security agencies picked up information about the fishing boat early in the morning of December 31 which suggested that the vessel had left Keti Bunder - a small fishing port north of Karachi.The Coast Guard launched the first Dornier - a maritime surveillance aircraft - at 11.30 am in the morning. The ship was spotted in the Indian waters. "It was idling and appeared to be waiting for instructions," a senior Coast Guard official told NDTV.

The intercept, sources tell NDTV, talked about very "expensive cargo" - each between Rs. 4-5 lakh - which was on its way to India. It also talked about how those on the Indian side had been "paid" to receive the cargo, implying someone in the Indian waters was waiting to pick up the cargo. The Defence Ministry and the Government seemed to be ill at ease to explain what happened to the second party that was to receive the "illicit" cargo. What the vessel was carrying "is a matter of investigation," Inspector General of Operations of the Coast Guard, KR Nautiyal told NDTV.

Also, if the Pakistani vessel was laden with weapons and terrorists were on board, then the fact that the men did not put up an opposition but instead chose to evade the Coast Guard ship seems surprising.

The Coast Guard Ship "Raj Rattan" - a Fast Patrol Craft - which was sent after the Pakistani boat sails at a maximum speed of 30 nautical miles per hour and is sturdy enough to be at sea for two weeks continuously. But the Pakistani boat - which from pictures released appears to be a single-engine vessel - still managed to stay ahead of it for over an hour. The MoD, in its statement, says that when challenged, "the boat increased speed and tried to escape away from the Indian side of maritime boundary. The hot pursuit continued for nearly one hour and the Coast Guard Ship managed to stop the fishing boat after firing warning shots".

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