New Delhi: Occupants of a Pakistani vessel that blew up and sank off the coast of Gujarat were "suspected terrorists", Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar said here Monday.
"I think they were suspected terrorists as they committed suicide. A normal boat even carrying drugs can surrender," he told reporters on the sidelines of an event.
"Why would smugglers stay in touch with Pakistani maritime authorities? Furthermore, why would they commit suicide?" he questioned.
"...the people on the boat decided to blow themselves up instead of surrendering. Smugglers can always surrender the drugs."
Union Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar. Pic: PTI
In a blatant reminder of the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack, the Indian Coast Guard in a dramatic chase intercepted and stopped the boat.
The vessel, which had set off from near Karachi on the eve of New Year, turned into a ball of fire and sank after its occupants, believe to be four in number, set fire to it early Jan 1.
The defence minister also lauded that Coast Guard for its effort and said they did the right job at the right time.
"The Indian Coast Guard reacted immediately. The boat was on surveillance for 12 hours and it was intercepted as soon as possible," said Parrikar.
The minister also pointed out that the the location of the boat was not on the normal sea route and smugglers usually take the busy route so that they can mingle with fishing boats