The Controversy Over The “Boat” Shames India
It is a known fact that for over two decades Pakistan has been fighting a proxy war through terror outfits like LeT and other elements and Hafiz Saeed, mastermind of 26/11, is allowed to freely move around issuing threats against India
Whither our pride. Nationalistic spirit and patriotism have been nailed on the Altar of frustrated hate. National security has been sieved. Whatever be the truth about the claim by the Defence Ministry that in a midnight operation off the coast of Gujarat a Pakistani fishing boat said to be carrying explosives was intercepted by the Indian Coast Guard, the exasperated Congress leaders, by openly questioning the credibility of the claim, provided Pakistan the ammunition to shoot down any terror charge India may make against it.
Hate the party that decimated you, do not criticise Pakistan because you are “secular”, but not at the cost of country’s security and its government’s dignity—Narendra Modi is Prime Minister but the government is country’s having been elected according the tenets of democracy.
But we must not forget that Congress leaders are legatees of Dr Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi. Their Congress-led UPA government just squirmed and whimpered its displeasure when Pakistan-sponsored terrorists came and beheaded India’s Jawan. The country’s honour was violated. But that was passe’ for the champions of secularism of Nehruvian kind. After all, its Prime Minister was almost ready to hand over Siachen to his dear ones across the border. And then he did not mind admitting that India was stirring problems in Baluchistan. With this kind of self-before-country culture, the party’s spokespersons who are demanding evidence, video recordings and clips of intercepts would never bother to worry about India’s security or honour. Whatever they do is according to ‘tenets of democracy’. Wouldn’t be in keeping with their sense of loyalty—first to Durbar and then to self—that the word ‘National’ be dropped from the party’s name Indian National Congress given way back in 1885. After all, the present Congressmen are successors of Congress (Indira).
Why could not the Opposition, and mainly Congress party, if they suspected that the government was lying and was trying to earn some brownie points ask for evidence and seek clarification about the operation without drumming their suspicion in public and making such a hue and cry? Such outcry against our own security agencies, the frustrated Opposition and Congress surviving on respirator have provided fodder to the rogue elements in Pakistan.
It is a known fact that for over two decades Pakistan has been fighting a proxy war through terror outfits like LeT and other elements and Hafiz Saeed, mastermind of 26/11, is allowed to freely move around issuing threats against India. As Congressmen demand evidence, Pakistan too continues to demand evidence against Hafiz Saeed.
Same language! “Pakistan Rangers had started unprovoked firing at four BSF border posts in Ramgarh sector around 9.30 p.m. yesterday. BSF retaliated effectively and firing exchanges between the two sides continued till 3 a.m. in Ramgarh, Hiranagar and Samba sectors.”
It Was No Ordinary Boat
According to commentators the Indian Coast Guard claimed that on December 31, the Pakistani boat blew itself up about 365 km off the coast of Gujarat’s Porbandar after many warnings that it ignored and a “hot pursuit.”
Intelligence agencies had reportedly picked up phone intercepts from the boat near Karachi about “expensive cargo” to be delivered near India. Another intercept revealed that those who were to receive the cargo “had been paid and were ready”. Suspicions about the crew grew as they did not look like fishermen and carried no nets. Coast Guard said that the maritime law enforcement agency emphasised that it followed standard operating procedure while intercepting the boat. (VD)
It is said that Saeed was near the LoC when Pakistani Rangers started shelling across LoC in the Samba district. The heavy firing continued overnight. Ironic that the very truthful and secular Opposition right then was accusing the government of falsely taking credit for intercepting a boat and claiming that it was carrying explosives. Their thinking was that smugglers were in the boat.
The Opposition and its torch-bearer Congress went into a shell and did not think of charging Pakistan of violating the LoC and killing civilians, mostly women and children. They keep their verbiage against their own country’s government. A few samples of the self-righteous.
“How can you say it was a terrorist attack?” Congress spokespersons have been repeatedly asking. Manish Tewari wanted evidence, footages, transcript of intercepts, allegedly between the Pakistani authorities and men on the boat. Another Congress spokesperson Ajoy Kumar had said: “How can you say that a terrorist attack was prevented? How did they (government) come to the conclusion that it was a terrorist boat? Nothing has been explained. Which organisation was behind it?”
Is it not the language used by Pakistan when India accuses Hafiz Saeed and others of engineering 26/11 and other terror incidents?
The Congress obviously believes that it has finally got the stick to make the government admit that smugglers were on the boat and thus ruin its credibility. A perfect revenge this, even if it is at the cost of nationalism and the national security. And as politicians always claim to say many things because ‘people want this’, ‘people desire…’ Congress has been raising in the public realm and asserts it has the right as principal opposition party to question the government. But that right should not breach security requirements.
The Build-Up To The Explosion
The sequence of events compiled by Nitin A. Gokhale gives a valuable insight into the drama on the high sea. He says, according to experts, Coast Guard did what it is supposed to do: Take appropriate action against rogue elements after following all SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures). Knowledgeable commentators with better access and even better understanding may differ with this account, but as a foot soldier of the national security beat, I have no other choice but to believe what my sources have told me. So here goes.
December 31: 0735hrs: The NTRO (National Technical Resource Organisation) sends out a specific input marked to all those it is required to keep in the loop, giving exact lat-long (latitude-longitude) of a boat that had sailed from Keti Bunder near Karachi and was headed towards the Gujarat Coast. The input had a rough description of the boat too. The intelligence input was based on a communication interception that the NTRO had managed.
0855 hrs: COM-CG, Gujarat, the Coast Guard’s Gandhinagar-based regional HQ received the details at 8.55 from Coast Guard HQ in Delhi.
0935hrs: A Dornier aircraft of the Coast Guard located at Porbander takes off for the first sortie. After about 90 minutes, it cites the boat, bobbing around in mid-sea roughly at the spot that the NTRO had indicated. The Dornier crew relays the information back to Porbander and Gandhinagar. After a 3.40 minute sortie, the Dornier returns to Porbander.
1235 hrs: Another Dornier aircraft is airborne even before the first one lands back. It keeps a hawk’s eye on the boat and sends back detailed description.
1330-1400hrs: NTRO listens in to another three-way conversation between the boat and presumably their handlers based in Karachi (probably personnel of the Pakistani Martime Security Agency) and someone based in Thailand. Occupants of the boat are heard telling their superiors ‘we are waiting.’ Coast Guard decides to keep the air surveillance going by sending a replacement for the second aircraft and also divert a ship, ICG Rajrattan which was on a task in a different area.
1730, 2030 and 2230 hrs: Coast Guard’s Dorniers are launched at these times to keep an eye on the boat which is neither fishing nor moving but is just hanging around.
2200hrs: INS Rajrattan makes an RV (rendezvous) with the boat after travelling more than eight hours. The crew tries to raise the boat and its occupants but the moment Rajrattan’s presence is noticed, the lights on the boat are switched off. The boat also tries to move away towards the International Maritime Boundary Line (IMBL).
23330hrs: The Rajrattan aware of the possibility of explosives and arms stored onboard the boat keeps circling around it which nevertheless continues its dash towards the IMBL. After about an hour of the cat and mouse game, the Coast Guard ship fires several warning shots. Perhaps finding no other alternative, the occupants onboard the boat decided to set it on fire. Several loud explosions occur and a massive fire brakes out on the boat. At least four men were spotted on the boat before it sank, a ministry of defence statement had said.
0430hrs-0630hrs, 1st January: The boat gradually sinks even as Rajrattan stays in the vicinity to look for any survivors. (VD)
Party spokesman Randeep Surjewala responded to BJP’s allegation by saying that branding as “Pakistani” those raising questions over the matter goes against the basic tenets of democracy. “We would request our friends in BJP to stop branding every Indian citizen asking questions as a Pakistani, for that goes against the very tenets of democracy.”
“As a primary opposition party, it is our responsibility that whenever in public life divisions crop up in different agencies of the government, we are in a position to put forward questions on behalf of the people to the government,” he said.
And then the biggest joke, “We request the BJP that matters of national security should not be used for self-manifested PR exercises.” Good advice. But the Congress is doubting the Defence Ministry’s version not as part of its PR exercise but as an exercise to somehow survive. And funnier it is that when its government was in power, it too had the responsibility of safe-guarding India’s border and not to let Jawans be sacrificial lamb with the order not to shoot first.
Now why government’s version is believable? Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar has said that those on board the Pakistani vessel which blew up after being intercepted off the Gujarat coast were “in touch with the Pakistan Army and the Pakistani establishment”. One has to give credence to one’s Defence Minister.
The Defence Minister also asserted that they were “suspected terrorists” not smugglers. “I can assure you that those on the boat were not smugglers. The boat was blown up and only people who are motivated and trained could commit suicide,” he said.
He said smugglers would not “keep in touch with the maritime Pakistani agency or the maritime security of Pakistan or their army or international contacts.”
He added that the government would release “all evidence” in the next few days once intelligence agencies completed their assessment.
Why Pakistan Is Extra Aggressive
- The Intelligence warned that Pakistan’s ISI, in the last three months, has been making relentless attempts to send hit squads of the Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) into India both through the land and maritime boundaries. But, increased inputs by the Indian agencies has prevented any major attack so far.
- Imran Khan and other speakers on TV channels have been shaming their government of lagging behind the economy and international stature India has attained. The Generals cannot allow such feelings to spread. This is why the increased violations to show that India is putty in their hands.
- The US President coming to India and not going to Pakistan is an insult that the Generals can hardly stomach. The firings across the LoC are an expression of their frustration.
- They are pinpricking India to start a low-intensity war to force the world attention on Kashmir which they dread is getting saffronised.
- Nawaz Sharif had asked President Obama to raise the issue of Kashmir while he is in Delhi. The increased firing is just to prove to Obama that if not resolved Kashmir could be the fuse to trigger a full-scale war. (VD)
“A normal boat even carrying drugs can surrender,” the minister said, adding that the Indian Coast Guard had “done the right job at the right time based on intelligence inputs”.
He revealed that the vessel had been under air surveillance for more than 12 to 14 hours before it was intercepted, adding, “The location was not the normal sea route for fishing boats; even the smugglers normally take the busy route so that they can mingle with boats. This was an isolated location.”
He added “there was a second boat but that was in Pakistani water.”
Two very senior army officers who have had knowledge of tactics of terrorists having served in Kashmir for many years too said that smugglers do not commit suicide nor they blow up their boat. They must have been terrorists committed to suicide rather than be captured. One Major General added that it was possible that the men in the boat were not instructed to land and launch terror attacks.
They were to possibly supply the explosives. The country’s western sea coast is most vulnerable to intrusion of the 26/11 kind despite the fact that India’s maritime surveillance and prevention capabilities have improved significantly. The coordination between different agencies is now almost real time as this operation has demonstrated. Despite such a progress, there’s no guarantee that future terror attacks can be prevented simply because terrorist have the luxury of choosing the time and space for the attack.
For the past three months, several intelligence inputs have indicated that Pakistan’s ISI continues its relentless attempts to send hit squads of the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) into India both through the land and maritime boundaries. Increased vigil by the Indian agencies has prevented any major attack so far but there is no room for self-congratulations or complacency as New Year day’s episode on the high seas has shown.
The logical conclusion is that the men in the boat were a threat to India’s security. ‘Come Clean’ on Pakistani Boat Issue, Congress can go on telling the Government!
Unfortunately, the party which the Mahatma nurtured has now decayed and its reduction to a rump has affected its thinking process. A Party which was in the vanguard of freedom movement, has seemingly degenerated to the extent that it has lost the ability to distinguish between what is in the country’s interest and what could help its enemy.
The controversy would end with the release of evidence by Defence Ministry but the damage caused to the credibility of security agencies and the help provided to Pakistan to counter terror charges by India against it would last to the detriment to our interest for a long time. One can understand the abysmal low Congress has fallen to. It does not seemingly hear the firing from across the LoC and the misery caused to villagers living near the border.
By Vijay Dutt