At an All-India Congress Committee (AICC) press conference, Congress leader Randeep Singh Surjewala lashed out at the BJP government and said the government should not make a PR event out of national security.
“Our 12 fishermen from Gujarat have been illegally abducted from the security agencies of Pakistan…The government must immediately take up the issue with Pakistan for their release,” said Sujrewala. He also commended the Coast Guard for the action taken by them against the boat.
Sujrewala then responded to BJP saying that Congress was taking Pakistan’s side. “It is our right as the Opposition to question the conflicting reports in the media. NTRO and the IB or RAW have two different versions (of the incident),” said the Congress leader. “We request the spokespersons of BJP to stop making PR events out of issues of National Security,” he said.
The Congress leader also said that any question which made the government uncomfortable was not pro-Pakistan.
We also appeal to our friends in the BJP to stop branding those people as “Pakistani”, those who question the government : Surjewala
— INC India (@INCIndia) January 5, 2015
Every citizen of this country has the right to question the government, the ruling party cannot brand them as “Pakistanis”: Surjewala
— INC India (@INCIndia) January 5, 2015
9. 10 am: No indication that it was a smugglers’ boat
After reports that the ‘terror’ boat destroyed on New Year’s Eve during an Indian Coast Guard was linked to a drug mafia based in Pakistan, Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar said that there was no indication that it was a boat of smugglers, but rather it was linked to terror.
“The boat was under surveillance for 12 hours. That it was stationed in one position doesn’t indicate smuggling,” Parrikar said while addressing a press conference.
“Smugglers won’t stay in touch with the Pakistan maritime authorities. And why would smugglers commit suicide?,” he asked.
The Defence Minister also said that he is not speculating that there were explosives, but the activities don’t fit description of a smuggler.
5 Jan, 8.00 am: Commandos deployed across Gujarat coastal areas
According to reports, Commandos have been deployed at 20 police stations across Gujarat coastal areas. Pakistan has reportedly captured two Indian fishing boats with 12 fishermen on board near the Gujarat coast. The two boats, named Jhelelal and Jalram, were captured by Pakistan on Saturday night.
End of updates for 4 January
7.43 pm: Pakistan captures two Indian fishing boats
According to TV reports, Pakistan has captured two Indian fishing boats with 12 fishermen on board near the Gujarat coast. According to Times Now, these boats were captured from the international maritime boundary line off Jakhau coast.
The two boats, named Jhelelal and Jalram, were captured by Pakistan on Saturday night, says this report in The Times of India.
Another DNA report says that the Pakistan Marine Security Agency captured the two boats “in retaliation to the tracking and intercepting” of the Pakistani boat on New Year’s Day.
2.47 pm: Don’t need lessons from chaperones of terrorism, says Congress
Reacting to BJP saying that Congress was speaking the same language as Pakistan, Congress leader Manish Tewari said that the party acknowledged that the Pakistan government had been waging a ‘proxy war’ against India, but said that the BJP’s reaction was a blow to the bipartisanship required for national security.
“Congress doesn’t need lessons on nationalism from chaperones of terrorism,” Tewari said. “The government needs to put all the facts in the case in the public space,” Tewari told Times Now.
ALLSO REED: Explosives-laden boat was nameless: Coast Guard
He said that the BJP-led government had failed to handle national security which could be seen from the fact that there were civilian casualties along the Indo-Pak border. “Why is there such a heightened activity on international border?” said Tewari. “The government needs to put out all the facts on the boat in the public space.”
1.23 pm: Does Congress believe Indian government or Pakistan, asks BJP
BJP lashed out at the Congress saying that the BJP should name the terror group connected with the boat. BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra on Sunday said that the opposition had hit a ‘abysmal’low in politics.
“We are very sad that the Congress chose not to stand with the Indian government. The Congress chose not to stand with the Indian Coast Guard and not to speak in favour of the Indian intelligence agencies. The Congress chose to stand by the probable perpetrators of terrorism,” Patra told reporters.
“The Congress has time and again spoken in the same language as Pakistan,” the spokesperson said. “I ask the Congress: Why is it, time and again, speaking the same language as Pakistan?”
“The question we are putting in front of the Congress is: who does Congress believe Indian government or the Pakistan government?” Patra asked.
12.53 pm: Defence Ministry, calls for review of intercepted communications
Ministry of Defence has reportedly called for a full review of all intercepted communications which led to the boat being apprehended.
According to the Indian Express, the Ministry “has also asked the National Technical Research Organisation (NTRO) for logs and audiotape of intercepted Thuraya satellite-phone communications, on the basis of which it asked the Coast Guard and Navy to intercept the fishing boat.”
Moreover, the potential target of the boat that was intercepted may have been the inauguration of a naval base by Prime Minister Narendra Modi or the annual Vibrant Gujarat summit that is to be held this week, reported theHindustan Times.
10.34 am: Crew on boat might not have been terrorists, says source from navy
Some reports have now expressed doubts over whether the boat was simply a fishing boat or one being used by terrorists.
Intelligence sources claimed that there were three boats from Pakistan under surveillance. While the first boat exploded, the second boat was towed away by the third boat. The official statement doesn’t mention ‘cross-border terrorism’ or ‘boat belonging to any terror outfits’, according to this Firstpost report.
“First no evidence has come up yet suggesting clearly that explosion was caused due to explosives or the boat had arms and ammunition. Second, the defence ministry release didn’t mention about any terror link, as claimed by the intelligence agency sources. It was a fishing boat unlike in the 26/11 case, which was a military-style operation,” a Naval source said on condition of anonymity.
Moreover, a report by Indian Express says that there were doubts that the boat posed any terror threat and that “those on board might have been small-time liquor and diesel smugglers.” The report also stated that based on government sources, “the intelligence had no link to terrorism, and made no reference to any threat to India.”
End of updates for 3 January
8.17 pm: Govt gave no concrete evidence to suggest boat was ‘terror boat’, says Congress
Congress said that the BJP should name the terror group connected with the mysterious boat. The party hit out at the government, saying that there was no concrete evidence to suggest that the crew of the boat was a group of terrorists, say reports.
Congress spokesperson Ajoy Kumar asked the government to “come clean” on the Pakistani boat issue and explain “which terrorist organisation” was behind the episode that unfolded on the high seas. He also questioned how the government could claim that a terror strike had been prevented without any evidence.
Moreover, another Gujarat Congress leader Shaktisinh Gohil said that it would have been better if at least one of the occupants of the “terror” boat had been captured alive even as he alleged loopholes in the state’s coastal security.
“We had caught a 26/11 terrorist (Ajmal Kasab) alive during the operation. It would have been better if at least one of the boat occupants had been caught alive…India then could have told the world their handlers belonged to Pakistan,” said Gohil.
4.00 pm: Crew on boat didn’t look like fishermen, says Indian Coast Guard
Indian Coast Guard (ICG) on Friday said suspicions were raised about the identity of crew of the explosives-laden boat intercepted by them, as they did not resemble fishermen from their dressing style and carried no nets.
ICG said they followed the standard operating procedure (SOP) while intercepting the hostile boat, which as intelligence input suggested, had set sail from the port city of Karachi from Pakistan for some “illicit transaction”.
2.21 pm: Govt taking steps to avoid 26/11 like attack, says Rajanth
Meanwhile, Home Minister Rajnath Singh has said that the government is taking every step to ensure that another 26/11 like attack doesn’t take place in the country.
“We have tried to improve the security situation in the country. We don’t want a repeat of what happened on 26/11,” Rajnath told reporters
2.20 pm: Pakistan trying to escalate tension ahead of Obama visit, says BSF
In the back drop of the dramatic boat chase on high seas off the Gujarat coast on New Year’s Eve, the BSF says Pakistani terrorists have upped the ante ahead of US President Barack Obama’s visit.
“Pakistan is trying to escalate tension ahead of Obama visit,” says IG BSF Rakesh Sharma #PakCrossesLine
— TIMES NOW (@timesnow) January 3, 2015
President of United States Obama will visit India later this month as he is the chief guest for the Republic Day parade in New Delhi on 26 January.
1:58 pm: Pakistan rejects reports of boat interception off Gujarat
Pakistan today rejected reports that a Pakistani fishing boat said to be carrying explosives was intercepted by the Indian Coast Guard off the coast of Gujarat and the vessel exploded before sinking along with four occupants.
11.54 pm: Defence Minister briefed on terror incident
Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar is being briefed about the maritime incident off the Gujarat coast along with other officials.
11.00 am: Boat was ‘definitely’ part of terror mission, say Defence forces
Defence forces have said that an incident in which a boat from Pakistan blew itself up off the Gujarat coast soon after the Indian Coast Guard gave chase, was definitely a terror attack.
A report from the Times of India quoted ‘sources’ as saying, “While other sources did not rule out the possibility of the boat could carrying some other highly inflammable cargo like high-sulphur diesel, which caught fire after being hit by gunfire from Coast Guard patrol vessel ICGS Rajratan, the vessel clearly seemed “to be on a mission” since it was far beyond the Sir Creek area where Pakistani fishing vessels normally operate. “No fishing nets were detected on the boat, which also undertook evasive manoeuvres and switched off its lights on being asked to stop,” said another official.
9.23 am: There were two boats when Coast Guard gave chase
It now emerges that there had been a second ‘suspicious’ vessel off the coast in Gujarat, when a boat masquerading as a fishing vessel blew itself up, according to a report on Times Now.
The channel reported that the second vessel had made a getaway when the Coast Guard had started giving chase.
End of updates for 02 January
7.08 pm: Coast Guard did a good job, averted a situation, says Defence Minister
Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar praised the Coast Guard for the action taken against the boat. “The sea was rough…The Coast Guard did their job exceedingly well and on time,” he said. “They averted a situation.”
Parrikar also said he has been briefed on the incident, according to Times Now.
Gujarat MLA and the state’s Minister of State (Home) Rajnikant Patel also made a statement on the incident. “Gujarat is witnessing a lot of important events like ‘Vibrant Gujarat’. Police are concerned about the security of the region at such a time. Police officers are working hard so important events in Gujarat are not disrupted,” he said.
Patel also said that no matter what Pakistan did, the security forces in India needed to remain vigilant against any terror attack.
6.55 pm: Indian media played up incident, says Pakistan media
The Pakistani media said that the Indian media was playing up the incident without establishing proper links to terrorism. A report in Dawn said, “Indian media has played up the event, alleging that a terror threat was imminent…However, links to terrorism have not been established or claimed.”
The report also said that the vessel was a fishing boat and the people on board were from Keti Bunder, near Karachi in Pakistan.
6.26 pm: Action taken by Coast Guard was well-coordinated, says former Western Naval Command chief
Vice Admiral Shekhar Sinha, who is the former Western Naval Command chief, praised the Coastal Guard for the action taken by it.
“It was a very good thing that the coast guard reacted immediately. It was a very good co-ordinated action,” said Sinha. “They went to the spot. The did whatever was required and they followed protocol.”
Sinha also admitted that the entire incident looked sinister. “Their intentions were obviously not good. That’s why after the Coast Guard fired some warning shots, it was blown up,” he said.
The Coast Guard has also said that the boat was under surveillance by Dornier planes, according to NDTV.
5.55 pm: Five lakh paid to families of people on boat, said a voice from an intercepted call
According to reports, defence ministry is now inspecting a call intercepted between two people who are believed to be a terrorist on the boat and a handler. “You have to act according to the situation on the other side,” said one person in the call, according to Times Now.
Another voice from the call reportedly said, “Five lakh each has been paid to the families of the people on boat.” The last message from the call intercept said, “We have received the weapons.”
Times Now also said that the point of origin of the calls was Pakistan. TV reports also said that the wireless set found on the boat was similar to the ones used by the Pakistan army.
KR Nautiyal, Deputy Director General (Operations & Coastal Security) of the Indian Coast Guard, recounted the boat chase and said, “We diverted our surface vessel to intercept the suspicious entity.
“The surface vessel reached the area by around 10.30 pm. When we encountered this boat, it started running and moved further into Indian waters. We fired some warning shots after which some people came on the upper deck of the boat. Then, they went inside the boat and set it on fire.”
Nautiyal also said that the boat sank completely by 6.30 am the next morning. He also said that Coast Guard ships were still at the area for further investigation.
5.41 pm: Coast Guard did a commendable job in stopping terror attack similar to 26/11, say defence experts
Among the reactions to the incident, Defence expert SR Sinho told ANI, “Since they blew up the boat, this gives a clear indication that terrorists were coming with explosives.” He also said that this was a big achievement of the Coast Guard.
“We should assume that Pakistan will never stop this. First, they violated ceasefire along the border in Jammu and Kashmir. Then, they choose to infiltrate through the sea in the style of 26/11 attack,” said Sinho.
Another defence expert Rear Admiral Raja Menon said, “We have learnt a lot since 26/11. The speed with which the coast guard reacted is commendable.”
“This a matter of great concern. It could be an indication of an upcoming terrorist attack, said defence expert Qamar Agha.
5.20 pm: No doubt crew of intercepted boat were terrorists, says Coast Guard
The Coast Guard now confirms that the crew of the boat intercepted near Gujarat coast had terror operatives. The Coast Guard told Times Now, “No doubt the crew of the boat were terror operatives.”
Meanwhile defence sources told the TV channel that there was also a wireless set found on the boat.
Also Venkaiah Naidu reacted to the news and said, “Pakistan has been aiding, abetting, funding and training terrorists.”
4.50 pm: Could be attempt to sneak terrorists into India, says BJP
BJP leader GVL Narasimha Rao told ANI that the boat vessel entering Indian waters was possibly an attempt to sneak terrorists into Indian territory. He also assured that the Coast Guard has foiled the attempt to do that.
Meanwhile, Coast Guard ships, choppers and aircraft are conducting search operations in the area to search for any possible survivors.
4.30 pm: Suspicious boat intercepted by Coast Guard near Gujarat coast
A suspected terror bid was foiled by the Coast Guard on New Year’s Eve when officials intercepted a suspicious boat near the Porbandar coast off Guajrat, say reports.
The boat was reportedly carrying four suspected terrorists and had begun its journey from Karachi in Pakistan, according to Times Now.
The channel reported that the persons on the boat were suspected to Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) terrorists.
The National Technical Research Organisation (NTRO) was reportedly tracking the boat right after it left Karachi. NTRO later on notified the Coast Guard about the boat, after which it was tracked down using a Dornier aircraft.
When the boat was around 365 kilometres from the coast of Porbandar, the boat was intercepted by a Coast Guard vessel, after which a chase followed.
“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,” the Ministry of Defence said in a statement.
The ministry said that four persons were seen on the boat but all of them didn’t pay heed to the Coast Guard’s warnings to stop and co-operate with the investigations.
“Soon thereafter, the crew hid themselves in below deck compartment and set the boat on fire, which resulted in an explosion and major fire on the boat,” the statement said.
The boat sank on the spot. The Coast Guard was unable to find any survivors or bodies on account of the darkness and bad weather.
“The boat burnt and sank in the same position, in early hours of 1 January. Coast Guard ships and aircraft are continuing operations in area to search for any possible survivor,” the ministry said in the statement.
ALLSO REED: Explosives-laden boat was nameless: Coast Guard