What does Praveen Swami know that the Coast Guard doesn’t?

In my earlier piece, we had looked at some journos including Praveen Swami, who had floated mind boggling borderline conspiracy theories about the Pakistani boat incident. As I interacted with people on Twitter, and after I re-read Swami’s piece, I felt this gem needed an exclusive post.

1.  In the earlier piece, I mentioned Swami says “India claims to destroy Pakistani Boat”. The Coast Guard’s press release never claims that it “destroyed” the boat, it just intercepted it. And Swami does not provide any conclusive evidence to come even near to proving his claim that India “destroyed” the boat

2. Swami also mentioned that “India claims to destroy Terror Boat”. Again the press release has no mention of Terror. Since the boat sank, there was no evidence (at least at the time of the Press Release) to claim it was a “Terror Boat”. Amit Shah said it “could have been” a terror plot. Defence Minister said it was a “suspected” terror plot. But nobody came close to claiming that it was a Terror Boat beyond doubt. Yet, Swami feels India did so. I wonder where he got that from.

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3. Swami goes on to say “new evidence has begun to emerge that those on board might have been small-time liquor and diesel smugglers”. He says “SOURCES” revealed to him that “National Technical Research Organisation (NTRO) had intercepted mobile phone traffic involving small-time smugglers operating out of the fishing port of Keti Bandar, near Karachi.

I am not sure what Swami’s “New Evidence” is, because he does not present any, except for what his “SOURCES” told him. Also, I was informed by @HungrynFool, that India Today has come out with a totally contradictory report.

According to this report, Aaj Tak has accessed transcripts (not sources) of radio communication between NTRO and the Indian Coast Guard. NTRO apparently recorded the radio communication between TWO (not one) Pakistani boats. This conversation reveals that the boats had “plans to repeat 26/11 carnage in Porbandar and that “both the vessels were in regular contact with Pakistan’s maritime agency and the army”.

This is in direct contradiction to Swami’s source based report which said the boat was of “chhota mota” smugglers. I personally don’t know which to believe, but I probably go with Aaj Tak’s transcripts, rather than some unnamed sources of Swami.

4. Swami also says that these “smugglers” were to carry bootleg “from the port of Gwadar to other fishing boats which were to have carried it into Karachi’s Keti Bandar harbour.” So this “smuggling” boat was supposed to pass on its ware to another boat mid-sea, which would head to Keti Bandar harbour. Now I am no geography expert, especially not Pakistani geography. But my friend Google Maps is. So I pulled this out:


Now we have Gwadar Port at the extreme left, At the centre is Keti Bandar Port. Porbandar in India, is way down, and the big green circle is probably where this “smuggling” boat from Swamy’s imagination report, caught fire. The green circle has been purposely inflated, because I am no geography expert. Also in light blue, I have marked the route I would take if I was in the “smuggling” boat.

Basically, Swami wants us to believe that this boat came all the way down into this green area, to pass on some stuff to another boat which also came down all the way, to carry it back up. COOL STORY BRO!

5. The Press release by the Coast Guard says, they could not save the boat that “due to darkness, bad weather and strong winds.” Swami counters this by saying that open-source meteorological data for the Porbandar coast shows conditions were almost ideal with cloudless skies on December 31-January 1. Of course he provides no links to this data.

I don’t believe these “Open-Source” stuff. So I went to the Indian Meteorological Department site and checked the report for 31/12/2014. The report says “An upper air cyclonic circulation laid over east central and adjoining northeast Arabian Sea off north Konkan and south Gujarat coasts and extended upto 1.5 km above mean sea level on 31st December, 2014.”

Now I don’t understand this, but my friend @sailorsmoon is a sailor. He tells me that in layman’s terms it means “a low pressure area is building and might result in heavy rains, strong air and choppy seas making it hard to maintain course for smaller vessels, And definitely NOT ideal weather.”

Who do you want me to trust? Open Source unlinked data from Praveen Swami, or Indian Government’s official data, interpreted by a sailor? You decide.

6. Swami then goes on to quote a Narsibhai Jungi Jadeja, head of the Porbandar fishing boat owners’ association. Jadeja says that it is surprising that nobody saw anything “because a fire at night would be visible many nautical miles away”.

Again I asked @sailorsmoon for his views on visibility and nautical miles. He said, “Irrespective of how huge a fire is, you won’t be able to see it beyond a certain distance, simply because the Earth is round (My sources have confirmed that Earth is indeed round).”

He adds that its almost impossible to see anything beyond 35 Nautical Miles, in even perfect visibility.  @sailorsmoon further quoted from personal experience and said, “We see burning flares of oil fields at sea, and we only notice them at not before 20 Nautical Miles at best.”

So how many Nautical Miles away was the Pakistani boat? 197 Nautical Miles! Let’s say thats a completely exaggerated figure and lets take its half i.e. around 98 Nautical Miles. Thats still way too far to see anything, according to @Sailorsmoon’s view, let alone the flames from a small fishing boat.

7. Praveen Swami also says that “There is a suggestion of use of disproportionate force on the poor boat since its engine wasn’t capable of outrunning Indian interceptors. He also says there isn’t much clarity “on the circumstances under which lethal force was used”.

I want to ask Swami, is chasing down a boat “Lethal Disproportionate Force”? Is asking it to stop “Lethal Disproportionate Force”? Or is he slyly hinting at something else? Like he did earlier, that India in fact “destroyed” this boat.

And I want to ask you, the reader, knowing that Pakistan has once successfully used this modus operandi, that Pakistan is continuously violating ceasefire norms as we speak, that this boat is not obeying your orders, that this boat could have another Kasab, did what the Coast Guard did, qualify as “Lethal Disproportionate Force”?

In my opinion, NO! Maybe Praveen Swami has more sympathy for the passengers of this boat who were surely in some or the other “Illicit activity” rather than for innocent Indian civilians.

So to conclude, Praveen Swami’s post doesn’t hold grounds on at least 6 points. Maybe his sources lied to him. Maybe his sources were wrong. Or maybe he didn’t have any sources and he just had a narrative in his mind which he had to show to be true by weaving a fictional story around it.

I would have loved to ask Praveen Swami to clarify this, but he blocked me on Twitter, as soon as I tagged him in a tweet with my earlier post. So much for good old tolerance preached by “Liberals”!

co-founder, OpIndia.com

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