Intelligence agencies wanted to talk to the crew of the Coast Guard ship that intercepted a Pakistani fishing boat before it sank in the Arabian Sea, but were told the ship had been sent on another mission, HT has learnt.
“Speaking to the crew will not serve any purpose. We acted as per intelligence given to us. We have not received any request. Any request for an interaction with the crew will be decided by the headquarters,” said Coast Guard commander (North West), Kuldip Singh Sheoran. He confirmed that Rajratan has returned to the sea.
This has added another layer of mystery to the New Year’s eve incident when Coast Guard ship Rajratan intercepted the fishing boat in the Arabian Sea, claiming that four men in the boat did not look like fishermen. The incident kicked up a storm as the media and the Congress questioned the Coast Guard’s version that the boat’s occupants were terrorists who sank it after they were caught.
“The government should come clean on it. There is no evidence. How can you say that a terrorist attack was prevented?” Congress leader Ajoy Kumar said, demanding a probe into the incident.
Defence minister Manohar Parrikar referred to the four occupants of the boat as “possible terrorists” on the basis that they had committed suicide.
“Why would smugglers stay in touch with Pakistani maritime authorities, army and international contacts? Furthermore, why would they commit suicide?” Parrikar asked.
As the government conducts an internal inquiry, HT has learnt that initial intelligence from the National Technical Research Organisation (NTRO) to the Multi Agency Centre (MAC) did not mention the word “terror”.
Intelligence agencies want to talk to the Coast Guard crew but the agency has been wary of granting them access.
Given the threat to India via the sea route after the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks, all security and intelligence agencies have to share information in a bid to improve and tighten maritime security.