Indian officials formally requested that the United Arabs Emirates file an official case against the United States Navy following an incident in which one of its ships fired upon a fishing boat off the coast of Dubai, killing one Indian national from Tamil Nadu and wounding three others.
The Indian consulate in Dubai has launched a probe into the incident. Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna asked for details into the incident and has urged Indian officials in the UAE to urgently look into the matter.
The US Embassy offered condolences to the families of the fishing boat crew. The US also gave a full account of the incident, in which officials said USNS Rappahannock fired on the motor vessel “after the vessel disregarded non-lethal warnings and rapidly approached the US ship.” The US is conducting its own investigation of the incident.
Abu Dhabi-based newspaper The National reported that initial investigations into the incident indicated there were no signs of the boat receiving a warning, and the boat was on its rightful course. Dubai police Chief Dahi Khalfan said the shooting was erroneous, the National reported.
The incident occurred on Monday near the Jebel Ali port about 30 miles southwest of Dubai, a port frequented by US warships and sailors. The locastion is seen as a secure area, and unrest in close proximity to Jebel Ali is virtually unheard of.
US Navy ships are rightfully wary of unknown approaching vessels, especially after the bombing of the USS Cole by a small suicide boat in Yemen in October 2000, killing 17 US sailors.
Any activity in the gulf touches sensitive nerves over Iran. AP repoted Theodore Karasik, a security expert at the Dubai-based Institute for Near East and Gulf Military Analysis placing balme on Iran over the incident, “There are certain factions within the Iranian political universe who are seeking a fight. And this is one way in which to do it.”
In early 2008, former US President George W. Bush accused Iran of a “provocative act” after five small Iranian craft buzzed around the destroyer USS Hopper. The US has recently bolstered its forces in the region, deploying additional minesweepers and warships. Another aircraft carrier- the USS John C. Stennis – has had its deployment pushed up several months and is due to arrive in Gulf waters soon, the Pentagon said, along with some 5,500 sailors.
Reasons for US unease are probably linked to increased tensions with Iran over the continuation of its controversial nuclear programme. Tehran has warned it will close the strategic Strait of Hormuz, a narrow passage that sees a fifth of world oil trade, in retaliation over increased sanctions on Iran.