Conspiracy Theories about Pak Boat Bogus

by Dr Archit Srivastava - Jan 6, 2015 09:39 PM +05:30 IST
Conspiracy Theories about Pak Boat Bogus

Any officer of the Navy, who knows the rules of engagement of the force would laugh at the conjectures floated by those who question whether the Pakistani boat that entered Indian maritime territory had terrorists, smugglers or innocent sailors in them.

Since the news of the Indian Coast Guard, preventing an apparent attempt by Pakistan to stage yet another 26/11 like incident has come to light, there have been frantic attempts by some with vested interests in the media to present it as otherwise.

Theories ranging from “petty smugglers” to “staged encounter” have been voiced. Some have even gone to the extent of awarding a certificate of innocence to Pakistan and blame our security forces for the use of disproportionate force.

Perturbed by the clamour of these ‘reputed’ journalists, this writer got in touch with an ex-Naval officer, who on condition of anonymity, explained why all these theories are mere theories, miles away from facts. He spoke at length of  the rules of engagement that the navy and coast guard follow, and how it is impossible to stage anything.

A Coast Guard Boat
A Coast Guard Boat

In his words, “The rules of engagement, give guidelines of what to do in which situation. It does not cover all scenarios but one gets the pattern. The use of lethal force is the last resort. In the given scenario, after receiving intelligence reports suggesting a threat and the suspect boat not stopping when ordered to meant that it did have a hostile intent. Letting the boat go was no option. so in steps, the intensity of the actions needed to be increased. As per the standard operating procedure, this included communication on designated channel, loud hailers and visual signalling by search lights.”

“If the above fail,” when such a situation emerges, “shots are fired across the bows — something like firing in air on land. If even then the boat does not stop, only then will the forces open fire at the boat,” the ex-Navy officer said.

He continued, “These measures are listed well and any innocent boat should have stopped. Even if the boat stops, the Coast Guard or Navy will not board the suspected vehicle immediately. The boat owner is asked to state his registration number, and all the crew and passengers are made to line up on the deck. Only when it is established that there is no threat, the forces will board the suspected vehicle.”

The former officer from the Navy added, “In no case the Navy or Coast Guards will go too close to the suspected boat until it is ensured that the threat perception is zero.”

“In this operation, a Dornier (aircraft) was used. When you use a Dornier, you have to inform the air traffic control of the nearest airport at what height the craft will be. All this data is logged, and is easily reproducible. Hence, the talk of a staged encounter shows ignorance of the procedures. All these rules of engagement are followed very sternly and in no way can they be flouted,” the former officer said.

Conspiracy theorists went gaga with their conjectures. Some reasoned on Twitter that it was difficult to understand why the Coast Guard could not intercept the boat even though the Pak boat had a much lesser top speed than theirs.

The explanation is very simple. The Coast Guard boats are faster, but they were not in the sea to race, and in the sea one cannot go ahead and park the ship in front of the boat to stop the suspects. Following the rules of engagement as explained earlier, the ship had to maintain a safe distance from the suspect boat. In no way the Coast Guard can risk their ship by drawing too close to the boat. The boat may be carrying enough explosives to blow itself up and sink the Coast Guard ship as well.

A similar attack had happened on USS Cole on 12 October 2000 wherein the terrorists used a small craft to blast the destroyer, leaving 17 dead. One must remember that the purpose of terrorists is to kill and, if they are able to destroy one ship using a small boat, it is a victory for them. In no way could the Coast Guard or Navy allow such a loss.

The “disproportionate force” theory is bogus because the Coast Guard firing a shell would have blown the structure of the suspect boat to pieces instead of just starting a fire. That is science 101, as my ex-naval colleague explained it to me based on his personal experience.

Dr Archit Srivastava is a medical practitioner with acquaintances in the Indian Navy.
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