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Why is govt silent on merchant vessels carrying arms: BJP

October 15, 2013 19:56 IST

Expressing concern over the seizure of a merchant vessel with unauthorised arms and ammunition in Indian waters, the Bharatiya Janata Party on Tuesday sought to know why the government is "silent" on the details and suggested the issue of piracy be taken seriously post-26/11.

BJP spokesperson Nirmala Sitharaman said only "sketchy reports" have come out in the open about MV Seaman Guard Ohio, a ship registered in Sierra Leone, Africa, with ten crew members and 25 armed guards. The vessel was captured and brought to Tuticorin sea port in Tamil Nadu.

"Till date, the legal status of those on board is unclear and the complete papers carrying permissions and licenses are unavailable," Sitharaman said.

Claiming to have raised its voice and alerting the government in the past on piracy in high seas, the BJP said, “India needs to be proactive in protecting the country's vessels in piracy-infested waters. Now, in the context of the capture of this vessel, we demand that the government tell the people of this country if they have progressed in that direction. The floating armouries of this kind and their legal status being unclear, raise a lot of questions. Legal or otherwise, the risk of their falling in wrong hands is very high and raises issues of national security," Sitharaman said.

The opposition asked why the vessel was allowed to go with the arms and ammunition at its last port of call Kochi. Moreover, the vessel has been in Indian waters for 15 to 45 days.

The BJP insisted Indian coastal security is of critical importance.

"Post-Mumbai attacks (26/11), this country has realised how important it is to guard its coasts. It is important for clearly stating the Centre and state's responsibility in this matter," the spokesperson said.

The party referred to other similar instances like the capture of a Somali boat with 17 men on board who were Yemeni nationals and an unmanned vessel- MV Pavit- found in 2011.

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