Is terrorism within striking distance of Kerala coastline?

via Pioneer News Service | Kochi published on January 18, 2007

The arms haul from a container in Kochi port has created ripples throughout the State with questions being asked of the Central intelligence agencies and the Kerala Police. While there was a deliberate attempt by the State police to play it down with comments and leaks to the media that these were low variety air pistols and air rifles, the Central agencies were alert and exposed the game plan.


 


 


Either the lack of sophisticated technology or a fixed mindset had misled the State police in this investigation and it was only after the Union Home Ministry interfered on the basis of tips from the Central intelligence agencies that it acted properly.


 


The Central intelligence agencies had also outlined the role of some senior Customs officials in aiding the transport of several containers through Kochi port and it is learnt that the international terror operators in Dubai had found Kochi port much easier to handle, sources within the agencies told The Pioneer.


 


Communication intercepts have given a sea of information to the Central agencies about the modus operandi of the terror operators and this is the major reason for the search of the container and the subsequent seizure of arms.


 


A senior intelligence official while speaking to The Pioneer from Chennai said that the Customs and Central Excise had tried to play down the case. There were deliberate attempts on the part of certain officials of these departments to carefully yet carelessly release bits and pieces to the media that this was an insignificant case and that this was an accidental seizure.


 


This official however vouched that the container was checked only after confirmed tips.


 


Union Defence Minister AK Antony while addressing the international seminar on maritime security in Delhi said that the coastlines are under surveillance and that there were possibilities of contraband being sneaked in through the coastline. As the Chief Minister of Kerala during the Marad carnage he has inside information of how a coastline can be vulnerable .


 


There were reports that vessels with contraband had arrived in the Kozhikode area.


 


Indian Naval chief Suresh Mehta had on the closing day of the seminar said that the arms seize from Kochi was “only a tip of the iceberg.”


 


This statement from the Navy Chief assumes significance when compared to the statements of Customs and the State police that this was an accidental seizure.


 


Central agencies have also given tips to the State police and the Coast Guard that there were suspicious movements of vessels along the Kerala coast with particular emphasis on Kochi port.


 


The Naval Chief had also said that 90 per cent of the world trade was containerised and 6 of the top 10 container handling ports are located in Asia and that this is an issue of concern. The statement of Naval Chief corroborates with that of senior RAW officials on this issue and this gives a clear impression that the safety of the state coastline is in danger with unabated traffic of containers which are not checked properly.


 


According to customs officials with the preventive commisionarate ,the intelligence wing of the Customs ,only 5 per cent checks are allowed in containers .


 


These officials however said that with the staff strength and the available technology this is only possible at present. The statement of Naval Chief can act as a catalyst in devising new policies and strategies by the Customs and Central Excise to track down the container movement.


 

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