The release of such an alert and the manner of its distribution gives rise to concerns around its authenticity and integrity. The warning, seen by Dryad, appears to have been an internal distribution instructing agents to inform all vessels under their charge of the situation and exercise enhanced security precautions accordingly. The alert appears to have been released in isolation, and has not been accompanied by any change in the ISPS level for Kandla port, nor has there been any official government statement regarding the information.
The wording of the report, which references Pakistani “trained” commandos, stops short of a direct accusation that Pakistani forces were operating within the Gulf of Kutch area. Additionally, the assertion made that the commando forces are suspected of being ‘trained in underwater attacks’ clearly seeks to invoke fears of state sponsored sabotage against commercial shipping, as was recently seen within the Persian Gulf. Whilst the Port Trust holds responsibility to release timely information concerning any potential risks and threats to vessels within the immediate area, to release an alert of this nature, without any official government backed statement or evidence, risks significant damage to the Port Trust and its commercial interests, therefore the nature of the release and its intended purpose is in question.
There is currently no evidence to verify that Pakistani military forces are operating within the Gulf of Kutch area. Furthermore, there is currently no credible narrative that would see Pakistani military forces operating against multi-national commercial shipping in this area. No direct link has been made in the alert with the recent reports of single engine fishing boats found by Boarder Security Forces two days prior. However, it has been suggested that this signals the source of concerns of a Pakistani infiltration. Were this to be the case, the abandoning of boats in this manner would be a significant tactical failure on the part of a potential ‘special forces’ operation, and would not be commensurate with what is currently understood of Pakistani specialist maritime capabilities.
Whilst tensions between Pakistan and India remain heightened due to the ongoing removal of the special autonomous status of the Jummu and Kashmir area, any involvement of Pakistani Special Forces in the manner suggested within the alert, would significantly undermine the stated legal challenge by Pakistan against India via the ICJ. India and Pakistan have a legacy of conflict over the Kashmir, but the nature of conflict has been limited to strikes against military instillations and targets. If Pakistani Special Forces were to target international shipping interests within the Kandla Port area, this would represent a significant departure from the established model of limited conflict. Indeed, this would be such a severe escalation, that any direct attribution could risk significant international sanctions, widespread condemnation and heighten the risk the outbreak of war between India and Pakistan.