India: It wasn’t a terror boat
A. Sattar Alvi
According to Indian news outlets, on the night between December 31 and January 1, the Indian Coast Guard reported that a boat had sunk after catching fire at a place which was 15 kilometres inside Indian waters off the coast of Porbandar. The guards had chased it for an hour and fired warning shots, intending to interrogate the people on the boat. The boatmen failed in their attempt to flee, went below the deck and then there was fire. The boat sank, leaving no trace of men or equipment.
The issue was instantly taken up by Indian government officials and the Indian press and another yarn was quickly woven to drag Pakistan in. How can India lose a possible opportunity for negative propaganda against Pakistan? The Indian defence minister insisted that it was a terrorist boat, a claim which he suggested was proved by circumstantial evidence. He, however, forgot to mention what the circumstantial evidence was.
A retired Indian admiral has said that the photographs of the burning boat definitely indicate that there were no explosives on the boat because that would result in a white-hot blast and not the orange glow emitted by the ignition of diesel flames. The Indian Express reported that the boat was actually on a smuggling run carrying dates, alcohol and heroin for a Balochistan-based smuggler. A noted Indian defence analyst and retired military officer, Ajai Shukla, has said that as it stands, the coastguard’s story of the high seas encounter doesn’t stand scrutiny.
How does the Indian defence minister know that it was a boat from Pakistan with not a shred of evidence of any sort? Why is it that no debris, even small pieces of wreckage, were not collected by the coastguards for a forensic examination to determine the cargo on the boat? How is it that a boat with a small engine could not be overtaken by four highly-powered coastguard ships?
India’s Congress party is repeatedly saying that it could not be a Pakistani boat and that there ought to be a full inquiry of the issue. Pakistan has, of course, denied any sort of involvement simply because there wasn’t any. What I can surmise from whatever has been said and done so far is this:
1) The Indian Coast Guard is either extremely inefficient (by their own admission) or has most likely concocted a story under the direction of the BJP government, that also done very poorly; 2) If the persons on the boat were terrorists, they would most likely have wanted to take some of the coastguards with them rather than die alone and meekly. That is what terrorists would have done; 3) What if there indeed was a boat of smugglers, defenceless against the Indian coastguards, who attacked and sunk the boat. The BJP then decided to capitalise on the incident to continue its relentless propaganda against Pakistan, particularly so in the wake of Barack Obama’s visit; 4) Alternatively, Indian authorities could have planned the whole episode and executed it with prior intentions to malign Pakistan. India is known to have done that previously.
The Pakistan government must lodge strong protest against this irresponsible and provocative conduct by Indian authorities. It should be impressed upon the international community that whereas Pakistan is actively fighting terrorism, Indian efforts to sabotage these efforts are against international peace and harmony. Closer to home, what are our diplomats doing about it?