New Delhi: Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar on Monday said "circumstantial evidence" indicates that the Pakistani boat, that was intercepted by Indian Coast Guard on New Year's night, had suspected terror links.
Dismissing claims that the occupants of boat were smugglers, the Minister said he would classify them as "suspected or possible terrorists" since they had committed suicide after being intercepted and added that they were in touch with Pakistani maritime officials, "army and international contacts".
He said the boat was neither in a fishing area nor on any busy route preferred by smugglers to sneak in and that their actions indicate that they were there for "some other kind of activity. We are not sure what is that other kind".
His remarks came as questions were being raised on the veracity of claims that a 2008 Mumbai attack-style operation had been foiled. There were also reports claiming that the boat was involved in smuggling.
The Congress has asked the government to come clean on the matter leading to a slugfest with the ruling BJP which accused the former of providing "ammunition to Pakistan" and speaking their language besides playing "petty politics" on terror.
Talking to reporters on the sidelines of a Defence Ministry event, Parrikar said, "There are speculations but I don't intend to be part of speculations except saying one very important aspect that the location (where the boat was found) is not a normal route for fishing boat".
He said that there were no other boats in the vicinity and hence it was not a fishing area.
Parrikar added that even smugglers of gold, drugs and other contraband normally take a busy route since it is easy to hide and mingle with other boats.
The Defence Minister said the boat was in an isolated location when spotted by surveillance aircraft which tracked it for about 12 hours.
"It does not indicate any type of smuggling activity but some other kind of activity. We are not sure what is that other kind," he said.