A day after an explosive-laden Pakistani fishing boat exploded off the Gujarat coast following a hot pursuit by the Indian Coast Guard, reports revealed it was part of a larger plot involving other vessels as well.
In fact, reports said, there were three such boats masquerading as fishing vessels off the coast in Gujarat when the Indian Coast Guard gave the chase. When the first boat blew itself up, the second 'suspicious' vessel had made a getaway. Coast Guard is yet to locate the third one, say news channel reports.
Defence minister Manohar Parrikar praised the Coast Guard for the action taken against the boat. "The sea was rough...The Coast Guard did their job exceedingly well and on time," he said. "They averted a situation."
Parrikar also said he has been briefed on the incident, according to Times Now.
Gujarat MLA and the state's minister of state (home) Rajnikant Patel also made a statement on the incident. "Gujarat is witnessing a lot of important events like 'Vibrant Gujarat'. Police are concerned about the security of the region at such a time. Police officers are working hard so important events in Gujarat are not disrupted," he said.
Pakistan seems bent on giving India an unhappy New Year. Close on the heels of the cross-border firing in Jammu & Kashmir that left one Indian and four Pakistani soldiers dead, it was revealed that the fishing boats laden with explosives was part of a New Year's Eve adventure.
The crew deliberately blew up their explosive-laden ship after a hot pursuit by the Indian Coast Guard. All four people on board the boat were killed, according to official reports.
Indian intelligence officials said the boat was intercepted in the Arabian Sea, 365 km off Porbandar on the Gujarat coast.
A statement from the government said four men were seen on the fishing boat, which did not stop even after warning shots were fired. The four-man crew instead hid themselves below deck before setting the boat on fire, which triggered a large explosion.
The blowing-up of their boat by the apparent terrorists was deliberate, top Coast Guard official Kirpa Ram Nautial told NDTV.
"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 1 January," said the official statement.
An intelligence tip-off warned the navy at about 9.30 am on 31 December of conversations mentioning "costly cargo" headed for the Gujarat coast.
Indian Coast Guard ships and aircraft located the unlit fishing boat near the maritime border with Pakistan, around 365 km from the coast. A one-hour pursuit followed.
The boat ultimately came to a stop. Then it went up in flames and sank at about 3 am on 1 January.
Ajay Kumar Pandey, a spokesman for the Indian Coast Guard, declined to comment on the terrorism angle.
In November 2008, Pakistani militants managed to sneak into Mumbai on a rubber boat and launched a 60-hour siege that left 166 people dead in India's worst-ever terror attack.
Since then, India has upgraded coastal security, spending money on patrol vessels, helicopters and building a coastal radar network.