Terror by the sea
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.