BJP on Tuesday asked the government to come out with complete details of the captured merchant vessel carrying unauthorised arms and ammunition in Indian waters,saying this is a matter of serious concern post-26/11 and piracy needs to be checked effectively.
The main Opposition alleged that the government has been virtually silent on the captured vessel which had British,Estonian,Ukrainian,as well as Indians nationals on board.
BJP spokesperson Nirmala Sitharaman said only “sketchy reports” have come out in the open about MV Seaman Guard Ohio,a ship registered in Sierra Leone in Africa,with 10 crew members and 25 armed guards. The vessel was captured and
brought to Tuticorin sea port in Tamil Nadu on Monday.
“Till date,the legal status of those on board is unclear and the complete papers carrying permissions and licences are unavailable,” she said.
BJP emphasised that Indian coastal security is of critical importance and should not be taken lightly.
“Post-Mumbai attacks (26/11),this country has realised how important it is to guard its coasts. It is important for clearly stating the Centre and state’s responsibility in this matter,” the spokesperson said.
The party insisted that government give a clear picture of what the vessel was doing in Indian waters and how it had gone undetected for so long.
Claiming to have raised its voice and alerting the government in the past on piracy in high-seas,BJP said India needs to be proactive in protecting the country’s vessels in piracy-infested waters.
“Now,in the context of the capture of this vessel,we demand that the government tell the people of this country if they have progressed in that direction. The floating armouries of this kind and their legal status being unclear,raise a lot of questions. Legal or otherwise,the risk of their falling in wrong hands is very high and raises issues of national security,” Sitharaman said.
The Opposition asked why the vessel was allowed to go with the arms and ammunition at its last port of call Kochi. Moreover,the vessel has been in Indian waters for 15 to 45 days.
The party referred to other similar instances like the capture of a Somali boat with 17 men on board who were Yemeni nationals and an unmanned vessel- MV Pavit- found in 2011.
BJP raised several questions about the vessel captured on Monday and demanded answers from the government.
“If after due-checking in the Kochi port,this vessel was allowed to go with the arms and ammunition still on board,it raises a lot of questions such as what their next port of call was. And,why they failed to reach it?” Sitharaman said.
She also questioned the necessity behind the crew members buying fuel in cans,as if it was a “poor fishing boat”.
“Free India’s history has quite a few such illegal arms-hauls gone unexplained. This latest one cannot be afforded to join that notorious list. The government has to come out with the facts related to this incident,” Sitharaman said.