Indian media rubs salt on RAW’s injury

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  • Rajinder Khanna’s outrageous plan earns media, opposition wrath
  • Khanna’s ex colleague Saxena planting vital questions to local journalists
  • Divided, confused Indian media filing contradicting reports

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special-report

Bureau Report

NEW DELHI- As the maiden plan of newly appointed RAW Chief Rajinder Khanna met an acute failure  with the terror boat drama getting completely exposed in hours after its staging, Indian media and opposition party Congress-I  is hitting hard on the government with media adding insult to RAW’s Terror Boat Injury here in India.

With opposition lashing out at BJP government for organizing a highly outrageous terror drama via its intelligence agencies, the Indian media also appears to be in state of acute confusion and is apparently divided over the issue. A monitoring of TV Channels and newspaper across India indicates clearly that individual journalists in both the print and electronic media are receiving conflicting reports from their “SOURCES”.  It seems that caught in an extreme state of confusion, different journalists are toeing different ‘given’ lines. The media circles here in Delhi and also I n Mumbai are buzzed with the hot gossip that  Rajinder Khanna’s ex colleague at RAW Arvind Saxena, who was placed ahead of Khanna in the RAW seniority list and was very strong candidate to become RAW Chief until Khanna superseded him and he was made Khanna Director and ex-officio Secretary of the Aviation Research Centre (ARC), a wing of RAW earlier, is maintaining a very good liaison with different Print and Electronic media journalists and is planting very vital questions to these journalists about the loopholes in the said flop terror boat drama of  RAW to humble Khanna while on the other side, Khanna group is planting confusing details about the terror drama being based on facts.

In a report, filed by a journalist in Indian Express, a leading English Daily, the Terror Boat Drama has faced a comprehensive postmortem . According to the report, less than 48 hours after the Coast Guard destroyed a boat it suspected was ferrying explosives and terrorists from Pakistan into Indian waters, new evidence has begun to emerge that those on board might have been small-time liquor and diesel smugglers, ferrying bootleg cargo from the port of Gwadar to other fishing boats which were to have carried it into Karachi’s Keti Bandar harbour.

There is also a suggestion of use of disproportionate force since the fishing boat did not have an engine capable of outrunning Indian interceptors.

The Report further says “Highly-placed government sources, however, said the intelligence had no link to terrorism, and made no reference to any threat to India. Instead, the sources said, the National Technical Research Organization had intercepted mobile phone traffic involving small-time smugglers operating out of the fishing port of Keti Bandar, near Karachi.”

The Daily adds that report,the sources said, was issued directly to the Coast Guard and Navy by a mid-level NTRO official in violation of systems which mandate that any possible threat must be shared with all relevant services, including the Intelligence Bureau, the Research and Analysis Wing, and the Border Security Force.

Naval headquarters, the sources said, chose not to deploy ships in response to the intelligence, noting that it did not involve any threat to national security. However, the Coast Guard scrambled at least one interceptor from Porbandar, which was seen leaving dock by local fishermen late on the night of New Year’s Eve.

A senior Gujarat Police official said that the Coast Guard did not share the information with the state police which also has interceptor boats and coastal police stations meant to interdict coastal trafficking. Maharashtra Police officials also said they were given no information on a maritime operation underway on December 31, and expressed surprise since the state has several landing points and jetties that could be used by a boat carrying explosives to India’s western seaboard.

“You don’t need to be a genius to figure out we should have been told,” the official said, “because if the fishing boat was actually carrying explosives and managed to evade patrols on the seas, we should have been in position waiting for it.”

The Indiqan Express report further adds that there is little clarity, so far, on the circumstances under which lethal force was used. In its press release, the Ministry said that a “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,” the release stated. But three naval officers told The Indian Express it was inconceivable that Pakistani fishing boats — typically four-crew vessels, with an average length of less than 25 meters and equipped with 80-220 horsepower diesel engines, or smaller mechanized sailboats with 30 horsepower engines — could outrun the Coast Guard’s state-of-the-art ships. Photographs released to media showed only fire damage to the ship’s hull, which would have blown apart had incendiary munitions, such as grenades or ammunition, been on board. Plastic explosive does not ordinarily explode in fires, and only chemical analysis can detect if it was on board.  Ministry sources said the Coast Guard has not retrieved debris from the area for forensic analysis. The Ministry’s press release also said that “due to darkness, bad weather and strong winds, the boat and persons on board could not be saved or recovered”. However, open-source meteorological data for the Porbandar coast for the year-end shows conditions were almost ideal right through the second fortnight of December 15, 2014 to January 1, with cloudless skies and, on December 31-January 1. There were no bad-weather warnings for Indian fishermen in the region through this period.  Local fishermen said they had not seen the fire on December 31— raising the prospect that the incident may have occurred in international waters, some distance from the thousands of Indian and Pakistani fishing boats in the area. “I’ve been talking to our people in the area”, said Narsibhai Jungi Jadeja, the head of the Porbandar fishing boat owners’ association, “and everyone insists they didn’t see a thing. That surprises me, because a fire at night would be visible many nautical miles away”. “I just hope the government clears up the mystery over this, because if any Pakistani fishermen have been killed, the Pakistan navy will take vengeance on us,” he said, the Indian Express report concludes.

Report of another leading English Daily of India, The Hindustan Times says, “A vital asset – one closest to the scene of the dramatic December 31 Coast Guard operation – that could have helped identify and elicit more information about the ‘terror’ boat was with the Navy’s Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) squadron at Porbandar. Yet, on December 31, the squadron had no information whatsoever nor was it pressed into action even after the National Technical Research Organisation (NTRO) tracked a communication between a Karachi-based handler and crewmembers of a boat said to be carrying terror operatives from Pakistan.

If sources in the Navy’s Western Command are to be believed there was little information available to them to launch an operation similar to the one carried out by the Coast Guard on December 31.”

The HT report further says, “INAS 343 – the UAV base – when commissioned at Porbandar in January 2011 was considered to be a shot in the arm for the Indian Navy considering Karachi’s proximity, about 450 kilometres from Porbandar, and particularly the presence of Pakistan’s Special Services Group (SSG) in the Pakistani city.

The UAV squadron with Israeli Herons and Searcher MK-II was well suited to carrying out a reconnaissance, identifying and even intercepting any further calls being made by the crew of the ‘terror’ boat that sank about 356 kilometres off the Porbandar coast. Though one of the UAVs had crashed in November last year, the Navy had three more capable of gathering both electronic and imagery intelligence. Navy sources said that the Searcher MK-II – a third generation UAV – is equipped with a sophisticated electro optic camera and with equipment to gather communication intelligence (COMINT).

The NTRO-Coast Guard operation also raises serious questions about the standard operating procedures laid down by the cabinet committee on coastal security (CCCS) after the 26/11 Mumbai terror strike. To avoid a fiasco of the magnitude of 26/11, the CCCS had appointed the Indian Navy as the nodal agency for coastal security. The decision saw INS Angre in Mumbai being designated as the Joint Operations Centre (JOC) for the western maritime frontier.

Hotlines to coordinate with various agencies, and state-of-the-art rapid messaging service technology to communicate with ships were installed to thwart any threat in real time. The JOC (West) was to operate under the command Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief (FOC-in-C) of the Western Naval Command.

“If the JOC was alerted about any such actionable intelligence, the Navy would have definitely moved its assets,” said a navy official, requesting anonymity. The criticality of the region, the unresolved border issues near Sir Creek coupled with Pakistan’s escalation of firing on the Line of Control (LoC) had seen the Western Command deploy its assets in the region, the official said.

Similar questions and queries are being argued on the electronic media as well while the officials of Defense Ministry and other relevant agencies continue to make outrageous claims and surprisingly, while making these claims about Pakistan’s involvement in the terror boat episode, and stating having evidences like wireless interceptions etc, instead of revealing these evidences, they are requesting media to keep them anonymous, something that makes the entire blame game extremely dubious.

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