Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar on Monday suggested that the occupants of the suspected "terror boat" from Pakistan might have consumed cyanide to kill themselves in order to avoid an interrogation by Indian Coast Guard.
Speaking to Karan Thapar on Headlines Today, the first-time Union minister defended the action of the Coast Guard and maintained that Indian security personnel did not fire on the boat that went up in flames and sank on New Year's night after it was intercepted off the coast of Gujarat.
The minister said he was awaiting a detailed report from Coast Guard regarding the incident and could release video footage and pictures in "2-3 days".
However, Parrikar ducked questions on Pakistan Army's involvement in the case, as claimed by him earlier, saying intercepts were "irrelevant" to the operation and how it ended.
He said one should take the intercepts as indication of the presence of the boat in Indian waters. He added that suicide by the occupants of the boat showed that they were motivated.
When asked whether the occupants had in that case chosen a very painful death, Parrikar said, "How do you know? They can take cyanide pill and then burn the boat".
He admitted that the means by which the occupants committed suicide was not known.
"Fire on the boat does not mean that was the way they killed themselves," he said.
On whether the occupants of the both were smugglers, Parrikar said that “normal smuggling activity does not take place from an isolated channel. This is not the regular channel of movement. This is a single boat in an isolated channel. The people on the boat, they were dressed not like fishermen, which normally smugglers do.”
However, Parrikar later appeared to contradict himself, saying the boat was “in (a) channel which is normally used by fishing boats and through which the smugglers penetrate”.
He said the boat was neither in a fishing area and nor was it following any busy route preferred by smugglers. Their actions indicate that they were there for "some other kind of activity", added Parrikar.
His remarks come in the light of questions being raised on the veracity of claims that a 2008 Mumbai attack-style operation had been foiled by Coast Guard. There were also reports claiming that the boat was involved in smuggling.
Parrikar also said that the Intelligence Bureau is free to question Coast Guard personnel on board the vessel that had carried out the operation against the Pakistani boat. The former Goa CM said that the Coast Guard interceptor ICGS Rajratan maintained a distance of at least one kilometre from the Pakistani boat, fearing it might blow itself up. “We can’t approach the boat at night,” he added.
With PTI inputs
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Updated Date: Jan 13, 2015 09:52:14 IST