Congress, BJP spar over maritime security

Congress raked up the issue of a multi-crore seizure of heroin off the Kenyan coast which is said to have been transported by a ship that originated from Gujarat.

New Delhi: Congress and BJP on Sunday traded charges on the issue of maritime security after Congress raked up the issue of a multi-crore seizure of heroin off the Kenyan coast which is said to have been transported by a ship that originated from Gujarat.

While Congress sought to punch holes in Narendra Modi`s claims of providing strong national security and said the seizure exposed "total laxity" of his government, BJP hit back charging the Congress of doing "sinister politics".

It also alleged the Congress-led Centre of inaction on its part to secure the country`s vast coastline despite the 2009 Mumbai attacks and said it was the job of the central agencies to take care of coastal security. It also charged the Centre with inaction in setting up immigration checkposts at ports despite the Gujarat government`s requests.
Congress alleged that heroin worth Rs 1,600 crore seized by Australian maritime force off the Kenya coast last month originated from Gujarat and contested Modi`s claims of providing strong national security.

"For Narendra Modi, national security is nothing but a stick for political gain... It is something to whip up jingoism and chest thumping," Congress leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi said, adding the recent incident has shown how "hollow" his claims are.

The BJP defended the Modi government, saying it is true that the ship owner was a Gujarati but said the ship was taken on rent and everything done was "legitimate".

"The responsibility for drugs control and anti-smuggling is done by central agencies. The state government just plays a coordinating role. There cannot be more sinister politics than this. Government of India is protecting Pakistan and denigrating its own state of Gujarat," BJP Spokesperson Meenakshi Lekhi said.

She said to do politics on an issue that is linked to the national interest especially at the time of elections, "is like doing sinister politics".

"If this is not sinister politics, then what is sinister
politics. People who are not interested in security of India and who play politics on it, have no right to be in power even for a single minute," Lekhi said attacking the Congress for raising the issue concerning national security a day before the last phase of polling.

Lekhi alleged the Central government has handled coastal security and internal security in an "irresponsible manner" and said the Gujarat government had last year written to it to set up immigration checkposts at ports.

She said the Gujarat government had also asked for setting up of a maritime security institute for training of coastal police in the state for which it has decided to provide 250 acres of land free to the Centre, but the central government has yet to respond on it.

"The central government did not work on these issues... The penultimate day of the nine-phase elections saw the two parties trade charges on national security," she said.

Singhvi had also claimed that the ship was chartered to Jamnagar-based Haza Bhai Kathiriya in October last year, whose two brothers Haji Ajij Kungda and Haji Abdul Karim Kungda are prominent BJP leaders in the state.

"Who is responsible for security lapse in permitting coastal region of Gujarat to be used for narcotics smuggling," Singhvi sought to know and reminded that its coast was used by terrorists involved in the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks.

"You are allowing this coastline to be brazenly used by smugglers, and certainly terrorists are and will take advantage of this laxity. This is real national security issue on the ground. It is in your backyard.

"You have full assistance from government of India. You have special boats, special equipment.
You are not using the manpower properly and not distributing it properly," Singhvi said cornering Modi on the issue.

Gujarat DGP P C Thakur said on May 2 that a CID probe has been ordered to find out whether the heroin seized near Kenyan coast was shipped from Gujarat or any such consignment was delivered here in the past using sea route.


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