NEW DELHI (Reuters) - The Indian government is under pressure to explain what caused a Pakistani fishing boat to explode, killing four people on board in mysterious circumstances, after a senior Indian coast guard official said it was deliberately targeted.B.K. Loshali, deputy inspector general of the Indian coast guard, is shown in a video released by the Indian Express newspaper saying he gave an order to attack the boat as it approached Indian waters last New Year’s Eve.The comments contradict the Indian government’s version that the boat laden with explosives was intercepted by the coast guard because it was planning an unspecified illegal transaction and the people on board set it on fire, causing it to explode.”I hope you remember 31st December, we blew off the Pakistani,” Loshali said in the video. “I was there at Gandhinagar and I told at night blow the boat off. We don’t want to serve them biryani.” The development comes as India and Pakistan’s foreign secretaries are set to resume talks next month for the first time since May. The two nuclear-armed nations engaged in their worst cross-border violence in a decade in October, capping a year when reconciliation had looked more likely and then faded. At a news conference on Wednesday, Loshali denied making the statements and said he was not in a position to know what happened that day because he did not handle the operation. “I have been misquoted; the boat actually set itself on fire and sunk,” Loshali said. “I was not privy to whatever was happening at that ground that day.”After his comments, the Indian Express released the video. Opposition politicians have demanded an explanation.
Defense Minister Manohar Parrikar said the government stood by its record of events and would consider taking disciplinary action against Loshali.”We stand by what we said, the issue is over,” Parrikar said. “We will take action against the person, if required, if he has made the statement.”At the time of the incident, the Indian coast guard said it chased the Pakistani boat off India’s western coast for almost an hour and it fired warning shots before it stopped. The coast guard then said the crew hid below deck and set the boat on fire, which caused an explosion.Riffat Masood, a spokeswoman for Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry, said it was investigating the incident.
Reporting By Andrew MacAskill in New Delhi. Additional reporting by Katharine Houreld in Islamabad.; Editing by John Chalmers and Nick Macfie