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Boats auctioned by Pak pose a threat, India seeks details

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Vikram Rautela

Posted: Dec 01, 2008 at 0558 hrs IST

Ahmedabad Intelligence reports indicate that among those who procure these boats can be terrorists

AMID conjectures that Kuber — Indian fishing trawler from Porbandar — was hijacked by the alleged Pakistan-based terrorists to reach Mumbai, the long-pending issue of 379 Indian fishing boats in the custody of Islamabad is all set to be raised again.

The issue, which was hitherto taken up mainly on humanitarian grounds, is now being considered by the Indian intelligence agencies as a serious threat to the country’s security.

It assumes significance as nearly 200 of the 379 apprehended Indian boats have reportedly been auctioned. Central and state intelligence reports indicate that among the bidders, who procured these boats, can be terrorists like those that attacked Mumbai last week, which claimed numerous lives.

State Home Minister Amit Shah said, “The fact that the apprehended Indian boats can be a security threat to the country has already been brought to the notice of the Ministry of External Affairs. We also asked the ministry to get from Pakistan details of the boats that have been auctioned.”

Reports say that 336 fishermen, mostly from Gujarat, who were apprehended by the Pakistan marine agency for entering their waters, are still languishing in Pakistani jails. On Friday, Pakistan released 99 of them as part of the confidence building measures between the two countries. While the fishermen are expected to reach their homes by Monday, their boats continue to be in the custody of Pakistan.

The Gujarat government had in October this year sent a delegation of government officials and Indian fishermen to Karachi. The visit aimed to meet the detained fishermen and also bring their boats back. The delegation that stayed there for eight days, however, was not even allowed to meet the Indian fishermen.

M K Chaudhary, from the Fisheries department in Gandhinagar, who had led the delegation, said: “Of the 379 Indian boats, we were allowed to inspect only 181, of which 135 were in a repairable state. Although their engines had clogged after remaining in seawater for a long time, some of them can be brought back if released.”

He added that when they asked about the remaining 198 boats, the delegation was told that they had been auctioned. “S K Reddy, counsellor with the Indian High Commission in Pakistan, was accompanying us when the Pakistani authorities told us this. When we asked for details like the list of people to whom the boat had been auctioned and the amount of money they collected, the Pakistani authorities refused to furnish the details,” Chaudhary said.

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