The Coast Guard officers who intercepted the suspicious Pakistani boat on the night of December 31, 2014, were handed over the President’s medal Thursday by Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar. Commandants Chandra Shekhar Joshi and Abhay Ambetkar were awarded the Tatrakshak Gallantry medal.
The citations on the awards reiterated the government’s version that the crew set the boat on fire.
“The boat was unlit and expressed hostile intent by trying to evade and taking advantage of the dark hours and weather. Despite repeated calls on VHF Channel 16, loud hailer and indication by search light, the crew of the suspected boat was defiant and refused to surrender. However, persistent efforts by the Officer and his team led to successful interception of the suspect boat…The crew set the suspect boat on fire. Subsequently, the boat was engulfed in massive fire following an explosion. The boat finally sank at about 0633 hours on Jan 1, 2015. Thereafter the ship assumed extensive search operations for locating survivors,” Joshi’s citation read.
Joshi was commanding ICGS Rajratan on the night of December 31, 2014, and intersected the boat along the International Maritime Boundary Line. Ambetkar, on the other hand, coordinated the air to surface operations that led to spotting of the boat.
“The Coast Guard ship warned the fishing boat to stop for further investigation… however, the boat increased speed and tried to escape… The 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… Soon thereafter, the crew hid themselves in below deck compartment and set the boat on fire,” the official statement from the government on January 2, 2015 had said, citing that the boat was “planning some illicit transaction in Arabian Sea”.
The government’s version was questioned following reports in The Indian Express which, citing intelligence sources, had hinted at use of force against the boat. At a gathering of Coast Guard and Larsen and Toubro officials in Gandhinagar last February, Coast Guard DIG B K Loshali had contradicted the government’s version and said, “I was there at Gandhinagar and I told at night, blow the boat off. We don’t want to serve them biryani.”
Loshali was later court martialed and sacked from service in December.
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