Days after a vessel suspected of carrying explosives from Pakistan sank off India’s west coast after being intercepted by the Indian coast guard, Pakistan’s Maritime Security Agency apprehended two Indian fishing vessels with 12 people on board on Sunday, according to media reports. The incident comes amid fresh claims by the Indian government that the four people aboard the vessel were “suspected terrorists.”
The boat, claimed by the Indian government to have come from Pakistan, was intercepted by Indian security forces off the coast of the western Indian state of Gujarat on Wednesday night. The vessel with four people on board sank after an explosion triggered by a fire below deck, the Indian coast guard had said, in a statement released Friday.
“I think they were suspected terrorists as they committed suicide. A normal boat carrying drugs would have surrendered. Why would smugglers keep in touch with Pakistan maritime authorities?,” India’s Defense Minister Manohar Parrikar reportedly said on Monday. “Circumstantial evidence points to suspected terror links.”
However, an unnamed former Indian navy official told The Guardian that official claims did not match up to the evidence.
"The photograph of the burning boat definitely suggests no explosives were detonated on board ... that would have resulted in a white hot blast, not the orange glow of diesel flames. The intelligence guys are not telling us all they know about how this boat came to their attention," he reportedly said.
Meanwhile, Indian government officials denied having knowledge of the capture of the Indian fishing vessels. However, the country’s coast guard confirmed the news, adding that the identities of those on board had still not been determined, according to local media reports.
“We would need to get in touch with the fisheries department of the state government to establish their identities, which will now be possible only on Monday,” an Indian coast guard official said late on Sunday, according to a report by The Times of India, a national daily.
In recent weeks, tensions between the two nuclear weapons-armed neighbors have also escalated along the heavily militarized border in the northern Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir, with several violations of a fragile ceasefire reported from both sides.
Reacting to what Pakistan has termed “unprovoked” shelling by Indian soldiers, Pakistan’s defense minister Khawaja Asif accused India of attempting to engage Pakistan in a “low-intensity war” on Saturday, according to media reports.
“In the past six-seven months, we have tried to better our ties with India so that peace can prevail. But it seems that they do not understand this language,” Asif reportedly said. “We will now communicate with India in the language they understand.”