Friday, 2 January 2015

Boat chase: After ceasefire violations by Pak, India foils terror bid on sea............

After getting a bloody nose on the land boundary where Indian soldiers forced Pakistani troops to show the white flag, emboldened by Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar's instructions to respond to Pakistan’s unprovoked firing with 'double the force', Pakistan has now been made to swallow a humble pie in the high seas.
It happened on the intervening night of 31 December and 1 January when ships and aircraft of the Indian Coast Guard intercepted a suspect fishing boat on the basis of a a specific intelligence input. The scene of action was inside the Indian waters in Arabian Sea near Indo-Pak maritime boundary, approximately 365 km from Porbander, Gujarat.
The suspected boat. Image courtesy PIB
The suspected boat. Image courtesy PIB
Sitanshu Kar, chief spokesperson of the Ministry of Defence, came up with a detailed description of the high drama in the high seas as follows:
“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. Based on the input, Coast Guard Dornier aircraft undertook sea - air coordinated search and located the suspect fishing boat. Thereafter, the Coast Guard ship on patrol in area was diverted and intercepted the unlit boat at about midnight of 31st December in position 365 km West-South West of Porbandar.
“The Coast Guard ship warned the fishing boat to stop for further investigation of the crew and cargo; however, the boat increased speed and tried to escape away from the Indian side of maritime boundary. 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 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.
“Due to darkness, bad weather and strong winds, the boat and persons on board could not be saved or recovered. The boat burnt and sank in the same position, in early hours of 1st January. Coast Guard ships and aircraft are continuing operations in area to search for any possible survivor. Coast Guard and other security agencies are maintaining high vigil in maritime and coastal areas since last couple of months due to several inputs on threat from the sea.”
"Pakistan does not like to stay quiet even on New Year day," Parrikar had remarked while referring to Pakistan’s continued ceasefire violations along the International Border – the third in past as many days and the seventh in last eight days. While Pakistani troops were busily shelling Indian border outposts on the New Year Eve, a maritime dimension of terror was being simultaneously enacted by Pakistan far away.
The Arabian Sea incident denotes that India has indeed learnt due lessons from the 26/11 terror attacks in Mumbai in 2008 when the perpetrators had reached Mumbai from Karachi via the sea route. It shows that not only the intelligence collection and its collation and analysis have become hands-on, the incident proves that the Indian coastal preparedness has acquired more teeth in the past six years.
The incident was definitely a foiled terror bid, though the intruding boat may not have been the vehicle for launching a terror operation by itself. It is quite probable that that the boat was carrying large quantities of explosives and weapons meant to be off-loaded to the terrorists’ Indian contacts at a later date.
One cannot discount the Barack Obama angle in this episode as the American President is due to arrive in New Delhi in the last week of this month as chief guest at the Republic Day parade. While it would be well nigh impossible to attack Obama during his India trip, the terrorists can still get a lot of publicity if a series of terror attacks take place in India in the run up to Obama’s arrival in New Delhi.
An important point mentioned by Kar is that four persons were on board in the intruding boat that was set on fire and sank. This means that these four persons were on suicide mission and must have been in touch with their masters in Pakistan.
It is highly likely that the Indian security and intelligence agencies might have intercepted these four persons’ conversations. This would be a treasure trove for the Indian security establishment.
Even better would be if the Indian Coast Guard was able to get one or two of the four men aboard the sunken boat alive. The authorities won’t be making it public for days for obvious reasons even if they have been that lucky.