Doubts mount over India’s claims of destroying ‘terror boat’ from Pakistan

Naval headquarters did not deploy ships in response to the intelligence, noting that it did not involve any threat to national security.

Written by Praveen Swami | New Delhi | Updated: January 3, 2015 1:40 pm
Coast Guard, Pakistani vessel, fishing vessel, fishing boat, terror, porbandar, pakistani boat, indian coast guard, Pakistani terrorist, An aerial view of the fishing boat carrying explosives before being intercepted by Indian Coast Guard approximately 365 km off Porbander in Gujarat, on Wednesday. The boat eventually drowned after being set on fire by crew members. (Source: PTI Photo)

Less than 48 hours after the Coast Guard destroyed a boat it suspected was ferrying explosives and terrorists from Pakistan into Indian waters, new evidence has begun to emerge that those on board might have been small-time liquor and diesel smugglers, ferrying bootleg cargo from the port of Gwadar to other fishing boats which were to have carried it into Karachi’s Keti Bandar harbour.

There is also a suggestion of use of disproportionate force since the fishing boat did not have an engine capable of outrunning Indian interceptors.

In a press release, the Ministry of Defence said that “as per the intelligence inputs received on 31st December, a fishing boat from Keti Bunder near Karachi was planning some illicit transaction in Arabian Sea”.

Highly-placed government sources, however, said the intelligence had no link to terrorism, and made no reference to any threat to India. Instead, the sources said, the National Technical Research Organisation had intercepted mobile phone traffic involving small-time smugglers operating out of the fishing port of Keti Bandar, near Karachi.

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The report, the sources said, was issued directly to the Coast Guard and Navy by a mid-level NTRO official in violation of systems which mandate that any possible threat must be shared with all relevant services, including the Intelligence Bureau, the Research and Analysis Wing, and the Border Security Force.

Naval headquarters, the sources said, chose not to deploy ships in response to the intelligence, noting that it did not involve any threat to national security. However, the Coast Guard scrambled at least one interceptor from Porbandar, which was seen leaving dock by local fishermen late on the night of New Year’s Eve.

A senior Gujarat Police official said that the Coast Guard did not share the information with the state police which also has interceptor boats and coastal police stations meant to interdict coastal trafficking. Maharashtra Police officials also said they were given no information on a maritime operation underway on December 31, and expressed surprise since the state has several landing points and jetties that could be used by a boat carrying explosives to India’s western seaboard.

“You don’t need to be a genius to figure out we should have been told,” the official said, “because if the fishing boat was actually carrying explosives and managed to evade patrols on the seas, we should have been in position waiting for it.”

There is little clarity, so far, on the circumstances under which lethal force was used. In its press release, the Ministry said that a “hot pursuit continued for nearly one hour and the Coast Guard ship managed to stop the fishing boat after firing warning shots”.

“Four persons were seen on the boat who disregarded all warnings by the Coast Guard ship to stop and cooperate with investigation. Soon thereafter, the crew hid themselves in below-deck compartment and set the boat on fire, which resulted in explosion and major fire on the boat,” the release stated.

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But three naval officers told The Indian Express it was inconceivable that Pakistani fishing boats — typically four-crew vessels, with an average length of less than 25 metres and equipped with 80-220 horsepower diesel engines, or smaller mechanised sailboats with 30 horsepower engines — could outrun the Coast Guard’s state-of-the-art ships.

Photographs released to media showed only fire damage to the ship’s hull, which would have blown apart had incendiary munitions, such as grenades or ammunition, been on board. Plastic explosive does not ordinarily explode in fires, and only chemical analysis can detect if it was on board.  Ministry sources said the Coast Guard has not retrieved debris from the area for forensic analysis.

The Ministry’s press release also said that “due to darkness, bad weather and strong winds, the boat and persons on board could not be saved or recovered”.

However, open-source meteorological data for the Porbandar coast for the year-end shows conditions were almost ideal right through the second fortnight of December 15, 2014 to January 1, with cloudless skies and, on December 31-January 1. There were no bad-weather warnings for Indian fishermen in the region through this period.

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Local fishermen said they had not seen the fire on December 31— raising the prospect that the incident may have occurred in international waters, some distance from the thousands of Indian and Pakistani fishing boats in the area.

“I’ve been talking to our people in the area”, said Narsibhai Jungi Jadeja, the head of the Porbandar fishing boat owners’ association, “and everyone insists they didn’t see a thing. That surprises me, because a fire at night would be visible many nautical miles away”.

“I just hope the government clears up the mystery over this, because if any Pakistani fishermen have been killed, the Pakistan navy will take vengeance on us,” he said.

Saeed Baloch, the head of the Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum, said he was investigating the identity of the destroyed boat, but had no immediate details. “Hundreds of people go out to sea every day, and it is impossible for us to keep track of all of them. I just hope some poor people trying to make a living have not been killed,” he said.

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First Published on: January 2, 2015 10:00 pm
  1. C
    Concerned
    Jan 2, 2015 at 6:17 pm
    So the Praveen Swami & the genius Indian Express decided to make it public how our intelligence agencies work so that the protagonists across the Sir Creek who only want to carry out chhota mota blasts in India are more careful in their next attempt. Deserves a Padma award for moronness if such a category exists.
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    1. R
      R
      Jan 3, 2015 at 10:52 am
      Why would a sane person smuggle diesel oil from one part of stan to another part of stan and that too via detour off Coast of India. Indian Express story is written by a day dreamer.
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        Aditya
        Jan 3, 2015 at 9:47 am
        I see a lot of hyper-patriots not confronting the author with ideas, but just calling him names and questioning is source of funding. A journalist's job is to report truth as he sees it. He may be proved to be wrong at a later date. If you have objection to his ideas, let us hear them, but let us refrain from calling him names. Its exactly how in stan every dissident (Hoodbhoy, Malala, Sethis, Mir etc etc) is simply dismissed as CIA/RAW/Mossad agent without any counter-argument on an ideological plane. Mr. Swami may be right or may be wrong. but gives no one any reason to make personal attacks on him.
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          Aditya
          Jan 3, 2015 at 10:20 am
          Would also like to draw the attention of everyone to another report on ABP Live by Nitin Gokhale which contrary in spirit to what is being said by Praveen Swami here.
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            Raj
            Jan 3, 2015 at 7:42 am
            Well said.You deserve a salute
            Reply
            1. A
              Abhishek
              Jan 3, 2015 at 4:54 am
              Well said.
              Reply
              1. A
                accountablejourno
                Jan 2, 2015 at 4:41 pm
                A simple web search of weather conditions in that area for Dec 31 shows that it was not clear weather or skies. This 'news' report does not cite any person or agency, only 'highly placed sources'. The fact is stani defense analysts have publicly stated (web search) that ISI conducts periodic dry runs to evaluate maritime border security of India. Bad journalism Indian Express. Do some research.
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                  accountablejourno
                  Jan 3, 2015 at 7:53 am
                  Apart from 2 identified sources,the head's of fishermen ociation of Porbandar and stan, whose response is that they dont know what happened, all other info in this article is hearsay and conjecture. Even the name of the open source met data is not given. The boat was intercepted 365km or nearly 200 nautical miles from Porbandar, the met department data for coastal conditions is not valid for this distance. So if the objective was to genuinely report discrepancies in the one sided report from the navy, then do a better job. Otherwise this is just speculation. Speculation is not news.
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                    accountablejourno
                    Jan 3, 2015 at 8:13 am
                    India's R&AW has no budget or mandate. Read the book the retired head of R&AW published a year or so back. The author of this article no doubt has sources inside defense services who gave an alternate angle, but this piece seems to be hurriedly put together. The headline says it 'may' have been smugglers, using 'may have been' is just speculation.
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                      adeel khan
                      Jan 3, 2015 at 7:56 am
                      hahahahahahaha
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                        adi
                        Jan 3, 2015 at 7:17 am
                        Disgusting article. Who funding this anti national journo.
                        Reply
                        1. S
                          Salil
                          Jan 2, 2015 at 9:57 pm
                          If finding facts is Anti nationalism, then be with your medicore thinking.. 4 people are minimum required for any boat operation, there should be extra to carry out terrorism attack.. A life lost is a life lost irrespective of religion, region or country... So better investigation should be done... If they were really carrying explosive then Coast guard surely did a good job but whats harm in through investigation?
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                            Ravindra Agrawal
                            Jan 3, 2015 at 10:52 am
                            If this boat did the same as six years ago, then it will be good for you? Unfortunately if it happens then you people say what our coastal guard was doing? This story is a proof that some journalists are not concerned with national interests, for them Pskistani interests are more impotent. Have some seance! This not journalism but........
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                              Ravindra Agrawal
                              Jan 3, 2015 at 11:13 am
                              Indian Express is the same news paper who cooked a story against Defense chief during UPA-2. Now it cooked the story against Coast Guard .......? What is the mission of IE.?
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                                Anil
                                Jan 2, 2015 at 9:35 pm
                                These jokers sud have stopped petty smuggle of 26/11 many lives wud have been saved. Fact is Ghulam NabI Fai ISI agents et in indian MSM doesn;t like coastguard thwarting stani design
                                Reply
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                                  aks
                                  Jan 2, 2015 at 10:13 pm
                                  As always Pravin Swami has nailed the nail on the nails head. These were innocent stanis who had stra across to India and were merely searching for their lost drugs and RDX. Unfortunately, the communal Indians did not accept being blown up and incinerated these innocent transporters of RDX. Fight the good fight Swamiji, the left-ummah applauds.
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                                    Mallu
                                    Jan 2, 2015 at 8:39 pm
                                    Highly placed sources is the boss of this journalist who asked him to write this ....
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                                      Mallu
                                      Jan 2, 2015 at 8:42 pm
                                      Poor pak terrorists....(sobbing) india always blame those innocents..but they are very happy that there are some good people in india like you who dont even like to utter a single word against those virgin seekers....
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                                        Akruthi
                                        Jan 3, 2015 at 6:42 am
                                        s:www.youtube/watch?...
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                                          Akshar
                                          Jan 3, 2015 at 3:31 am
                                          Very likely these people were Sanjay Dutt's friends coming to attend his party.
                                          Reply
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                                            Ahmed Ali
                                            Jan 3, 2015 at 8:28 am
                                            Ha hadian media is so stupid that they cannot even lie right.One media house say that the boat was blown up by the Coast Guard,another one says that it blew itself up and the third one says that a fire started in the boat.Now it comes to their attention through ''sources'' that the boat could not have run away from the Coast Guard.Apparently the Coast Guard could not decide what made up bull they were going to go with.You morons at least get your propaa straight.Maybe then someone with a rat,s IQ will believe it.
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