Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar said on Monday that while the government was “not sure” about the “kind of activity” that the occupants of the Pakistani fishing boat were involved in, “circumstantial evidence” indicated that they were “suspected or possible terrorists”.
The Indian Express reported on Monday that investigators in Karachi had identified the boat as a vessel allegedly linked to a drug mafia based in Pakistan. The boat was destroyed on New Year’s Eve about 365 km off Porbandar.
Speaking to the media today, Parrikar said the boat was neither in a fishing area nor on any busy route preferred by smugglers. “It does not indicate any type of smuggling activity but some other kind of activity. We are not sure what is that other kind,” he said.
He said he would classify the four occupants of the boat as “suspected or possible terrorists”, adding that “smugglers don’t keep in touch with Pakistani maritime agency or their army or international contacts.” Replying to questions about the veracity of this assessment, Parrikar said, “…circumstantial evidence indicates what I am saying.”
PTI quoted him as saying that all the details would be released soon. “They are doing analysis. We will release it once they complete the analysis in two-three days. Maybe it will take four days. Let them do the analysis and after that we will release it,” he said.
Parrikar said the suicidal act of setting the boat on fire showed that the men were “committed” and indicated a suspected terror link. “A normal boat, even carrying some drugs, can throw away their drugs and surrender. No one is going to be killing himself unless you are motivated enough to do that,” he said.
“As per our information, the boat was under our surveillance for over 12 hours — probably for more than a day — stationed there in one position… (I am) not speculating that it had explosives, but it had some activity in mind that does not fit the description of a smuggling boat. Which smuggler would commit suicide,” said Parrikar.
“There is speculation, but I don’t intend to be a part of the speculation, except to say that one very important aspect is that the location (where the boat was found) is not a normal route for a fishing boat,” he said.
In its statement last week, the Ministry of Defence said that “as per intelligence reports”, the boat was planning “some illicit transactions in the Arabian Sea”. It added that Parrikar had “complimented” the Coast Guard for averting a “possible danger”.
“The Coast Guard could not have done better. It was dark and the boat was laden with explosives, which appears to be at least partly correct,” said Parrikar today.
Meanwhile, the Coast Guard ship that has returned to Porbandar has not been able to bring back any wreckage of the boat or the bodies of the crew. This leaves only photographic evidence to support the claims that the boat was carrying explosives.
“Footage has already come out… Raat ka time tha, toh clarity itni nahi rahegi uski (it was at night, so it is not very clear),” said Parrikar, “As per my knowledge, there was very specific, clear intelligence. They were interacting about passing on cargo.”