India says boat crew didn't look like fishermen

India says boat crew didn't look like fishermen

India says boat crew didn't look like fishermen

Security agency’s suspicions that a “bomb boat” intercepted by the Indian Coast Guard had links with Pakistan heightened on Saturday as it was found that on-board crew members of the trawler were neither dressed like fishermen nor did they carry fishing nets. 

However, Pakistan denied the charge.The “fishing vessel“ set sail from Keti Bunder near Karachi for some “illicit transaction in the Arabian Sea”, according to the Coast Guard. 

“We saw four men in the boat; they did not look like fishermen; they wore T-shirts and shorts,”and this raised our suspicion,” Indian Coast Guard  Commander (North-West Region) Kuldip Singh Sheoran told reporters in Gandhinagar.

Intelligence agencies are believed to have intercepts of conversation between the on-board crew of the Pakistani trawler and their handlers in that country and elsewhere, which set off alarm bells about the real intention of the sailors on the night of December 31.  

Sheoran evaded a query on whether the crew were terrorists. He  said, “Multiple Indian intelligence agencies are jointly investigating the incident and they will go to the bottom of it.”

A search operation was on to fish out the suspect boatmen, who were intercepted about 365 km off the coast of Porbandar in the Arabian Sea.

The suspected Pakistani boat was set ablaze by occupants after they were cornered by the Indian Coast Guard after an hour-long chase.

The Defence Ministry had said that along with the boat, the four crew members had also sunk following a blast.

Pakistan Foreign Affairs spokesperson Tasnim Aslam had denied any link and said no boat from Karachi had gone into the open seas, a news agency reported. She charged India with “trying to divert attention” from the killing of two Pakistan Rangers on December 31. Sheoran said on receiving intelligence input at 8:30 am on December 31 about the suspicious boat, Dornier aircraft and a ship were moved in that direction and “by 1 in the afternoon we had positively identified the ship.” 

Around midnight, “our vessel ‘Rajratan’ reached the boat and tried to stop it through standard operating procedure. But instead of surrendering, the boat sailed zigzag and switched off lights on-board. We chased it for about one and a half hours.
“After the hot pursuit, we fired warning shots, but the boat did not stop. We fired more warning shots. After some time, the crew of the boat set it on fire and sank it with them (occupants),” the Indian Coast Guard officer said.

He said vigilance had been enhanced along the Gujarat coast after the boat incident and also in view of Pravasi Bharatiya Divas and Vibrant Gujarat Summit, two upcoming high-profile events there.