Defence minister Manohar Parrikar on Monday said the four-member crew of a rogue Pakistani vessel that exploded off the Gujarat coast on January 1 had committed harakiri, trashing speculation that the boat exploded and sank due to firing by the coast guard.
He did not rule out the possibility of the crew consuming cyanide pills before setting the boat on fire to destroy evidence.
“They were in touch with Pakistani authorities. I cannot reveal the intercepts picked up by us as it would compromise our sources,” a told a TV channel. After 16 hours of monitoring, the trawler was intercepted by the coast guard less than 200 nautical miles (371 km) off Porbandar. “With a 26/11 scenario looming large, you can’t ask the coast guard to make everything sure before they act at midnight. We have to assume the worst and proceed. The coast guard did a perfect job,” he said.
The minister said he did not need “conclusive proof” to avert danger to the country. He said the crew set the boat on fire so that no proof of their activities was left behind.
Rubbishing the theory that the boat may have been involved in smuggling, he said “normal smuggling activity does not take place in an isolated channel.” Indicating that the crew were working on a sinister plan, Parrikar said “those people were motivated enough to commit suicide.”
The trawler stopped only after the coast guard fired warning, but the crew had by then set it on fire, triggering a major explosion that sank the vessel. The coast guard swung into action on December 31 after an alert was issued that a suspicious Pakistani fishing boat from near Karachi was headed towards India.