Ter­ror by the sea

SP's MAI - - INTERNAL SECURITY VIEWPOINT - [ By Lt Gen­eral P.C. Ka­toch (Retd) ]

On the last day of last year, De­cem­ber 31, 2014, a boat from Pak­istan blew it­self up off the Gu­jarat coast after be­ing chased by an In­dian Coast Guard ves­sel. No sur­vivors have been found. The speed boat had been deemed sus­pi­cious and then in­ter­cepted and chased by the Coast Guard for nearly an hour off the coast of Por­ban­dar. After the Coast Guard fired at the boat to warn it to stop, the ves­sel blew up. On New Year’s eve, in­tel­li­gence agen­cies re­port­edly had in­puts that a boat had sailed from near Karachi to carry out what sources de­scribed as “an il­licit trans­ac­tion” in the Ara­bian Sea, about 365 km south-west of Por­ban­dar in Gu­jarat. A mid­night op­er­a­tion was launched us­ing ships and a Dornier air­craft to lo­cate the fish­ing boat. After a three-hour search, the un­lit boat was lo­cated, and a Coast Guard ship that was pa­trolling the area was di­verted. 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 boat after fir­ing warn­ing shots. The boat did not have a name. 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 on­board could not be saved or re­cov­ered. The boat burnt and sank in the same po­si­tion, in early hours of Jan­uary 1. Coast Guard ships and air­craft con­tin­ued op­er­a­tions in area to search for any pos­si­ble sur­vivor. Till last re­ports, 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.

It may be re­called that in 26/11, a Pak­istani boat sailed into Mumbai with 10 ter­ror­ists on­board who then split into pairs and struck the city’s land­marks; 166 peo­ple were killed in In­dia’s worst-ever ter­ror at­tack. The in­stant case of the Pak­istani boat that blew it­self up un­for­tu­nately be­came a sub­ject of in­fruc­tu­ous heated de­bate and po­lit­i­cal mudslinging whether the boat was un­der­tak­ing smug­gling or had ter­ror­ists on board. This de­spite the fact that Coast Guard brief­ing had brought out the fact that the four oc­cu­pants of the boat were dressed in T-shirts and shorts and did not look like fish­er­men. Be­sides, in­tel­li­gence agen­cies had re­port­edly in­ter­cepted ra­dio con­ver­sa­tion be­tween the boat’s oc­cu­pants with Pak­istani army and with Thai­land.

The in­sin­u­a­tion by Op­pos­tion par­ties, mainly Congress Party in In­dia that the whole in­ci­dent was rigged up was not only in poor taste it show­cased to the world dis­unity in In­dia’s po­lit­i­cal fab­ric to face ter­ror. Pak­istan glee­fully re­jected that the boat had any­thing to do with it. For­eign of­fice spokes- per­son Tas­neem As­lam told me­dia that no boat from Karachi had gone to the open seas on the night that the In­dian Coast Guard had in­ter­cepted the ex­plo­sive-laden ves­sel. Given the propen­sity with which Pak­istani au­thor­i­ties lie, this was but ex­pected. But this time their me­dia mocked that why should Pak­istan be ac­cused in the first place when some of In­dia’s own po­lit­i­cal par­ties were in­sin­u­at­ing that the in­ci­dent was fab­ri­cated.

What we need to re­mem­ber is that in the hey­days of the LTTE, Al Qaeda had sent their cadres to train with LTTE’s Sea Tigers, one of the fall­out of which was the ter­ror at­tack on USS Cole. In­tel­li­gence have been warn­ing of seaborne ter­ror at­tacks in South In­dia by Pak­istani ter­ror­ists off the coast of north­ern Sri Lanka; ISI is linked with some 12 ma­jor ter­ror­ist groups in­clud­ing Al Qaeda, Haqqa­nis and of­fi­cial pa­tron­age of or­gan­i­sa­tions like the LeT and Lej; Pak­istan’s ‘Karachi Project’, launch­pad for 26/11 has not been shut down; Pak­istan’s rad­i­cal mas­cots like Mushar­raf and Hafiz Saeed have been openly al­leg­ing In­dia or­ches­trated the Pe­shawar mas­sacre on De­cem­ber 16 last year, warn­ing of ter­ror at­tacks; Pak­istan would like to di­vert at­ten­tion from the Pe­shawar mas­sacre of school-child which was ac­tu­ally an invitation to Tal­iban to do so since Pak­istani mil­i­tary has been killing hun­dreds of civil­ians in­clud­ing women and chil­dren through in­dis­crim­i­nate aerial bomb­ings of civil­ian ar­eas; de­spite Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi’s ex­tended hand of friend­ship. Pak­istan has shown it will keep up­ping the ante, as in­di­cated through con­tin­u­ous bor­der vi­o­la­tions, and would the ISI not like to un­der­take some spec­tac­u­lar ter­ror at­tack be­fore Pres­i­dent Barack Obama vis­its In­dia later this month? It is equally im­por­tant to un­der­stand that in up­ping her proxy war, Pak­istan has and will con­tinue to syn­er­gise all ac­tiv­i­ties that can con­trib­ute to ter­rorise In­dia, to in­clude nar­cotics. If the Pak­istani boat was only car­ry­ing nar­cotics, which is re­port­edly rou­tine af­fair, where was the need to blow up them­selves? They could have got rid of the nar­cotics in the wa­ter and feigned they were fish­er­men who had lost their way. So, the boat could have been on any mis­sion like ram­ming an In­dian ves­sel, as was the case with USS Cole; tar­get an oil re­fin­ery, pe­tro­leum in­stal­la­tion; dump ex­plo­sives at an agreed lo­ca­tion on the In­dian coast; smug­gle in weapon(s) or equip­ment for ter­ror at­tacks; in­fil­trate a spe­cial emis­sary/ter­ror­ist leader for an im­por­tant mis­sion, etc.

What is rel­e­vant for In­dia is that while the Pak­istani so­ci­ety may want peace, what mat­ters in Pak­istan is not civil so­ci­ety, but the army and the ISI and their band of so-called ‘good’ ter­ror­ists. Be­sides, the land­lord politi­cians in the rul­ing class in­clud­ing Nawaz Sharif and his brother Shah­baz Sharif, who is the Gov­er­nor of Pun­jab, need to re­main on the right side of the army and the rad­i­cals. Nawaz Sharif nei­ther has the power to or­der his army to stop cross­bor­der vi­o­la­tions nor stop the rad­i­cal mul­lah Hafiz Saeed run­ning amok on Pak­istani army posts along the Samba bor­der. What In­dia needs is con­stant vigil and more im­por­tantly, cred­i­ble de­ter­rence to Pak­istan’s proxy war.

What is rel­e­vant for In­dia is that while the Pak­istani so­ci­ety may want peace, what mat­ters in Pak­istan is not civil so­ci­ety, but the army and the ISI and their band of so-called ‘good’ ter­ror­ists.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from India

© PressReader. All rights reserved.