Saturday, February 21, 2015

Questions about the 'Terror Boat'

In January, the Centre put out a press release about a Coast Guard operation on New Year's eve.

The press release stated that the crew of a "suspect" Pakistani fishing boat was carrying out an "illicit transaction" in Indian waters, and that after a confrontation with the Coast Guard, set their boat on fire.

Almost immediately, some sections of the press declared this a successful anti-terror operation. However, the press release was so awkwardly worded that it raised several questions.

The government has unfortunately not been forthcoming with information on what it seems happy to pass off as a successful anti-terror op. (It's important to note that the Defence Minister himself does not say this with conviction, always using the qualifier 'suspect').

The questions increased after a senior Coast Guard officer from the region of the operation made a boastful speech to colleagues at an official function, which was recorded on camera.

So what really happened on New Year's eve off the coast of Porbander?

We may have some clarity if the Defence Minister answers these questions during his planned press conference on Monday.

Based on the press release:
- The release says the crew of the boat was "planning some illicit transaction". What led the govt to this conclusion?

- It further says "the Coast Guard ship managed to stop the fishing boat after firing warning shots". Does this mean the warning shots hit the boat and disabled it OR did the crew stop the boat to heed the warning shots?

- The release then says "the crew hid themselves in below deck compartment and set the boat on fire".
If they were hiding below deck, how can you  conclusively determine what they were up to? This is especially problematic since the press release also describes prevailing conditions as follows: "darkness, bad weather and strong winds".

- Is it not equally possible that the aforementioned warning shots hit fuel lines and started a fire below deck, and the crew went below to attempt to put out the flames (and failed)?

- Indeed, if the CG warning shots did not disable the boat, why would the crew stop their boat only to kill themselves?

Assuming they were terrorists - (i.e. people who were attempting to carry out an act of terror)

- Why does the press release describe the work they were up to as an "illicit transaction"? This determination, according to the press release, was made based on "intelligence inputs received on 31st December".

- If the govt believes they were part of a terror operation and has hard evidence to back this, why has it not taken up the matter with Pakistani authorities? Talks had already been called off with Islamabad over ceasefire violations so straining diplomatic ties was surely not a worry.

- If there is no evidence to back the claim of terrorism, will the Defence Minister clarify his remarks to Headlines Today that he 'suspects they were terrorists'? I.e. on what basis does he suspect this?

Based on the new video clip:
- What was the purpose of releasing the limited video? It is already widely know that the boat was on fire.

- Why was the audio deleted in the video clip released to the press?

- Does the coast guard have more video evidence from the night of the operation? Will this be released?

Based on the video of the DIG Coast Guard's speech:

- Was the DIG ever in the loop over this operation as he claimed in the speech to fellow officers?

- Why has the govt found the DIG's clarification unsatisfactory?

- If his reply to the show cause notice has been found unsatisfactory, will it be made public? Surely nothing in it can be 'classified' as he was not in the operational loop.

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