A Pakistani fishing vessel exploded and sank 365 km off Porbandar when an Indian Coast Guard ship intercepted it. The explosion was triggered by a fire set off by a four-member crew after the Indian Coast Guard intercepted the vessel near the India-Pakistan maritime boundary on December 31, 2014.
The Coast Guard ships and aircraft spotted a suspicious fishing boat 365 km off Porbandar in the Arabian Sea, following intelligence inputs that one such boat from Keti Bandar near Karachi was planning some illicit transaction.
The Coast Guard ship tracked down the boat and after an hour-long hot pursuit, intercepted it. “Four persons were seen on the boat who disregarded all warnings by the Coast Guard ship... 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,” said a Coast Guard release.
“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. 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 on board could not be saved or recovered. The boat burnt and sank in the same position, in early hours of 1st January. Coast Guard and other security agencies were maintaining high vigil in maritime and coastal areas since last couple of months due to several inputs on threat from the sea.”
Gujarat coast on surveillance
After the incident, the entire Gujarat coast has been put on surveillance with at least six aircraft continuously monitoring it. "The entire Gujarat Coast has been put on surveillance. Around six to seven aircraft are continuously monitoring it. The Coast Guard is also vigilant," said Inspector General Kuldip Singh Sheoran, Commander of Coast Guard Region (North-West).
"We are trying to recover something from it but haven't found anything yet. It is a matter of investigation and the intelligence agencies are looking into it," he added.
Pak boat was carrying suspected terrorists: Defence Minister
India's defence minister Manohar Parrikar said on Monday, "I think they were suspected terrorists, as they committed suicide. A normal boat even carrying drugs can surrender. The Coast Guard has done the right job at the right time based on intelligence inputs. The route taken by the boat was not normal, even the smugglers normally take the busy route so that they can mingle with other boats."
Parrikar said and added that the boat was laden with explosives and could have damaged the Coast Guard vessel.
Pak seizes two Indian boats off Guj coast
Three days after the incident, Pakistan's Maritime Security Agency (MSA) reportedly “apprehended” two Indian fishing vessels with 12 fishermen on board. The two boats -Jhelelal and Jalaram -were seized by the MSA (Pakistan's counterpart of the Indian Coast Guard) from the notional international maritime boundary line (IMBL) off Jakhau coast on Saturday night. Fishermen association leader from Porbandar Manish Lodhari said they had received a message from the fishermen about the seizure by MSA.
In Rajkot, an Indian Coast Guard official confirmed the abduction of Gujarati fishermen but said their identity was not yet established. He said, “We would need to get in touch with the fisheries department of the state government to establish their identities.” But in New Delhi, maritime authorities said they had no confirmation of the reported seizure of the two Indian fishing boats. “Seizure of each other's boats is a normal practice since fishermen from both sides cross the IMBL for a better catch on a daily basis,” said an official.
The fact, however, remains that defence minister has been holding meetings with Navy chief Admiral Robin Dhowan, Coast Guard director-general Vice-Admiral Anurag Thapliyal and other top officials after the sinking of Pak vessel.