New York: It's now clear that the Pentagon is standing by the US Navy's version of events in the killing of an Indian fisherman off the coast of Dubai. The US Navy had stated that warnings were issued to the fishing vessel, they were not heeded upon after which they fired. This statement has been contradicted by eyewitnesses on the trawler who said they received no warning before the U.S. craft opened fire, and that their craft had attempted to avoid any contact with it.
According to Pentagon Spokesperson, George Little, after the experience of the Al -Qaida attack on the USS Cole in which 17 US sailors were killed in 2000, the US Navy was following procedures.
Mr Little explained "to put this into some context, there are procedures in place. Based on what we know now, a series of warning measures were issued to the oncoming vessel. Those warnings were not heeded and the vessel was fired upon."
Tensions were already high in the waters of the Gulf after Iran last week renewed threats to close the strategic Strait of Hormuz - in retaliation for tighter sanctions over Iran's nuclear program.
According to Lisa Curtis, security expert at the Heritage Foundation, "the US is worried about potential naval terrorist attacks and may have heightened alert status on naval vessels in the Gulf based on recent intelligence about potential Iranian threats. "
Mr Little expressed regret for the loss of life and both Indian and US officials maintain that an investigation is underway. The incident has so far not sparked a diplomatic row like that was seen following the February 15 incident when Italian marines on board an oil tanker shot and killed two Indian fishermen off the southern coast of India. While this may be a reflection of the strength of Indo US relations, and open channels of communication between New Delhi and Washington, it still is a challenge for the External Affairs Ministry which after the February 15 incident announced its resolve to safeguard the welfare and security of Indian nationals out on the high seas.
Story first published:
July 18, 2012 10:03 IST