NEW DELHI: Rejecting the "smugglers at sea" theory, the Indian government on Monday claimed that the Pakistani boat which sank in the Arabian Sea after being intercepted by the Indian Coast Guard had "suspected terror links", a report published on The Times of India said.

"I think they were suspected terrorists (the four persons on board the fishing vessel) as they committed suicide. A normal boat carrying drugs would have surrendered. Why would smugglers keep in touch with Pakistan maritime authorities?" claimed Indian Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar.

Parrikar also praised the Coast Guard for what he called doing "the right thing at the right time" — based on "clear, specific Indian intelligence".

The boat, which began its journey from Keti Bandar near Karachi, was kept under surveillance for over 12 hours and was intercepted at a location which is not the normal sea route taken either by fishermen or smugglers.

"If they were smugglers, why would they commit suicide? I would categorise them as suspected terrorists," said the Indian defence minister.

While the defence minister insisted that the Pakistani boat had "terror links", he refused to "speculate" on the exact nature of cargo which was on the boat.

"I am not speculating that it had explosives. But their activities to my mind do not fit the description of smugglers. Circumstantial evidence points to suspected terror links," he said.

However, an earlier report on the Indian Express had said that the Pakistani vessel seemed to be on a routine smuggling trip when it was intercepted.

Take a look: India claims Pakistani boat exploded after navy chase

The Indian Express report had said there was also a suggestion of use of disproportionate force since the fishing boat did not have an engine capable of outrunning Indian interceptors.

On December 31, Indian Coast Guard ships and aircraft had tried to intercept the boat near the maritime border with Pakistan, around 365 kilometres from the coastal state of Gujarat, following an intelligence tip-off.

Examine: Pakistani boat blows self up after India navy chase: Indian defence ministry

Although the boat did eventually stop after warning shots were fired, the four-man crew then allegedly hid themselves below deck before setting the boat on fire which triggered a large explosion.

Earlier when reports of the boat exploding first came, the Pakistani foreign office had told a news agency it was unclear whether the incident had happened at all. The foreign office had at the time added that it was not possible to independently verify the Indian account.

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