Navy chief Admiral Robin Dhowan on Wednesday said his force would observe no niceties if it came across Pakistani warships due to a possible threat from Jihadist groups against the backdrop of terrorists attempting to hijack a Pakistan frigate in September.
He said it was customary for warships to exchange pleasantries in international waters but if a Pakistani vessel came close to an Indian ship, it would viewed as a possible Jihadist threat.
“Out at sea, when the officer on watch reports to the captain that we have a warship from another navy on our starboard bow, he tells the officer -wish him good morning. In this changed environment, we may not wish him (Pak warship) good morning anymore,” Dhowan said on the eve of Navy day, which commemorates the daring Karachi raid during the 1971 Indo-Pak war.
He said the navy would carry out more surveillance to figure out who exactly he was.
Terrorists had tried to hijack PNS Zulfiqar on September 6 and use it to attack US warships in the Indian Ocean Region. The raid at a naval base in Karachi was allegedly carried out with the help of Pakistani naval personnel, heightening fears of terrorist infiltration into the Pakistan military.
Dhowan said, “It is a very serious incident. We have inputs that terrorism in the maritime domain is increasing. That is taken into account in our security matrix.” Warning against the threat posed by so-called non-state actors, he said the navy had inputs of terror organisations at sea.
He said more than 2.5 lakh fishing boats operated along India’s coasts and any of these could be exploited by a terror group to launch attacks against the country. “Anyone could take guns and explosives and land on any island (in Indian territory). The threat is real,” he said.
He said it was quite easy for terror groups to launch a strike in the given scenario, while it was an arduous task for Indian agencies to guarantee robust maritime security.
“And hence the threat in the maritime domain from terrorists, from the aspect of asymmetrical warfare, non-state actors or whatever you want to call them is a huge problem,” Dhowan added.
Navy chief Admiral Robin Dhowan on Wednesday also indicated that human error was a contributing factor that led to the sinking of Russian-built INS Sindhurakshak at a Mumbai harbour last August, a mishap in which 18 personnel were killed. He said it appeared standard operating procedures were not followed aboard the Kilo-class submarine.
“A submarine is a dangerous platform because it has explosives, fuel and lots of equipment. When procedures don't get followed, then there is room for error. And whenever there is room for error, accidents can happen,” he said.
The fully-armed boat sank on August 14, 2013, barely seven months after it was overhauled at a cost of more than Rs 815 crore in Russia. “It is not one cause but a series of issues that led to this particular accident,” he said. The report of the Board of Inquiry into the accident is currently being evaluated.
“It could be aspects of not following procedure, of what activity was on, what was the initial trigger, what aggravated it and to what extent by something not being done correctly,” the chief said. He added it was a “very, very serious accident” as it was not normal for a submarine to explode in harbour.