February 18, 2015 11:06 pm

Who Blew Up Pak Boat? Delhi Under Pressure To Explain

NEW DELHI/ISLAMABAD:  The Union government was left red-faced on Wednesday after a senior Coast Guard official negated its claim that the crew on an intruding Pakistani boat had set it ablaze but Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar stood his ground and hinted at disciplinary action against him.

Acting close on the heels of the minister’s statement, the Coast Guard issued a show cause notice to Coast Guard DIG B K Loshali, Chief of Staff (North West Region), asking him for his explanation on his claim on Tuesday in Surat that he had ordered blowing up of the boat off the Porbandar coast on New Year’s eve.

Loshali’s version contradicted the claims by the defence minister, ministry and the Coast Guard made immediately after the incident when they had maintained that when the boat was chased by Coast Guard ships four men on board had set it ablaze.

On Wednesday, Loshali made a U-turn, claiming he was misquoted by the media. However, the Indian Express uploaded the video of Loshali in which he says that he ordered on December 31 night to “blow up that boat”.

“Let me tell you. I hope you remember December 31 night… We blew off that Pakistan… We have blown them off. I was there at Gandhinagar and I told at night, blow the boat off. We don’t want to serve them biryani,” he had said in Surat.

Joining the controversy, Congress demanded that the government come clean on the issue and warned it against threatening the DIG. AAP said the row showed how the government was functioning as one hand does not know what the other hand was doing.

But Loshali himself sang a different tune.

“I was not privy to whatever was happening. I have been misquoted. I had mentioned that no anti-national element will be allowed to breach our coastal security and we are not going to serve them biryani.”

“The operation was classified in nature and its details were not shared (with me),” he told reporters, adding it was his boss Inspector General, North West region, Kuldip Singh Sheoran who was in charge of the operation.

Parrikar, who addressed a press conference on the sidelines of the Aero Show in Bengaluru, faced a number of questions in the wake of Loshali’s statement.

He said the defence ministry stands by the statement that the boat blew itself up.

“The defence ministry had given a very clear statement. We stand by it,” he told a press conference here referring to the stand taken by him and the ministry that the crew of Pakistani boat had set it afire when challenged by the Coast Guard.

Parrikar indicated disciplinary action against the Coast Guard official DIG B K Loshali if he had made the statement contradicting the ministry’s stand.

“If someone tomorrow makes a statement, which is incorrect, at the most you are making a case of a disciplinary proceeding against him. At the most if you prove that he has made statement, you are making a case of taking action against him. It does not change ground reality,” he said.

The minister said if the DIG has made the remarks, he will take action but only after enquiring into the issue.

He said he will seek a copy of the video recording to ascertain the facts.

Inspector General K R Nautiyal said in Delhi that they had received a statement from Loshali who had denied making any such statement.

What he said, Loshali claimed, was that “anti-national” elements won’t be served briyani and dealt with according to the law of the land.

Officialspeak: What the government had said on January 2

As per the intelligence inputs received on December 31, a fishing boat from Keti Bunder near Karachi was planning some illicit transaction in Arabian Sea. Based on the input, Coast Guard Dornier aircraft undertook sea — air coordinated search and located the suspect fishing boat. Thereafter, the Coast Guard ship on patrol in area was diverted and intercepted the unlit boat at about midnight of 31st December in position 365 km West-South West of Porbandar.

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 ships and aircraft are continuing operations in area to search for any possible survivor. Agencies

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