A Pakistani fishing boat suspected to be carrying explosives was intercepted by the Indian Coast Guard in the Arabian Sea at around midnight on December 31, triggering a wave of suspicions about another terrorist attack along the Indian shore.
The boat blew up in the Sea 365 km Southwest of Porbandar in Gujarat and sank off after being intercepted by the Coast Guards. The Coast Guards had asked the boat to stop for further investigation of the crew and cargo; but it increased speed and tried to escape from the Indian side of the maritime boundary. The guards had fired warning shots and finally managed to stop the fishing boat after an hour long chase. The four occupants seen on board blew it up after being cornered resulting in an explosion and a major fire on the boat. Darkness, bad weather and strong sea winds were blamed for not being able to carry out a proper investigation or saving the boat or the persons on board, according to the official statements released. The government said that the fishing boat that started from Keti Bandar near Karachi was up for “planning some illicit transaction” in the Arabian Sea.
Speculations surrounding the incident escalate as Gujarat gears up for the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas and Vibrant Gujarat summit. Defence minister Manohar Parrikar applauded the coast guards involved in the “intelligence based midnight operation”. The government said that the Coast Guards and the security agencies have been on a high alert in maritime and coastal areas since the last few months due to several threats from the sea. But the reports given by different investigatory agencies are contradictory giving rise to even more suspicions of another 2008 Mumbai attack. After the 26/11 Mumbai terrorist attack, the security forces have been on high vigil. A Pakistani boat sailed to Mumbai with ten terrorists on board who then split up and targeted the city’s landmarks in the worst ever terrorist attack in the country killing 166 people. But neither the Gujarat nor the Maharashtra police were aware of the latest boat ‘threat’. The Intelligence Bureau, the Research and Analysis wing and the Border Security Force were also clueless about the incident.
Official reports say that the boat was up for liquor and diesel smuggling. But the other boats along the shore hadn’t seen the fishing boat. Questions remain unanswered as to why the boat was blown up. The authorities had reported of a rough weather that hampered the search operations. But plain weather prevailed over Gujarat and no warnings of a bad weather had been issued from the Centre. The authorities have not released any reports regarding the explosives on board when speculations of grenades and other dangerous explosives were believed to be carried. While the Congress critisised the government for not taking the required actions to provide a foolproof coastal security along the longest sea coast in the country, the BJP hit back, opposing the demand for a proper investigation. With already three wars fought with the nuclear armed neighbor and the disputes over the Kashmir region, similar incidents would only further estrange the ties between India and Pakistan.