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Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Afghan nationals working inside Cochin shipyard where INS Vikrant is being build and unidentified drones in the vicinity

On Wednesday, an Afghan national named Abbas Khan alias Eidgul working at the Cochin Shipyard Limited was arrested by Kochi police. Last month there were reports of unidentified drone activities over strategic areas in Kochi including Cochin Shipyard and the headquarters of the Cochin Port Trust. Sensing trouble, the 23-year-old was on the run and a team led by Ernakulam assistant commissioner Y Nisamuddin finally arrested him from Kolkata.

The drones flew over one of the three command-level formations of the Indian Navy, the high-security strategically important Southern Naval Command. The command center and the shipyard lie on opposite banks of a water channel. After discovery of drones, the security was swiftly raised and a probe led to the arrest of Eidgul. Informants led to the discovery that his ID card was forged and that is also when he went absconded from Kochi. 

Investigation led to the discovery of his activities in Bharat and also how came to be in this country. From Afghanistan, he had travelled to Nepal and then entered Bharat on a three-month medical visa, ending up in Delhi. He then went to Assam where he got hold of forged identity documents including school certificates and an Aadhaar. This shows how easy it is to get such documents in these border areas and how easily crores of Bangladesis have illegally entered Bharat from Assam.

It does not look like a coincidence that he ended up in Kerala, 1000s of miles away. Another major security breach happened when Eidgul got a job in the Cochin Shipyard. His father is Afghan and unconfirmed reports suggest that his mother is from Assam, but lives in Afghanistan. 

Media reports suggested that Eidgul’s mother has nine brothers and that many of those are working at the Cochin shipyard! He reportedly had a fight with his uncles and they are the ones who revealed his Afghan identity to security personnel at the shipyard. Shipyard authorities tried to hide their complicity or ignorance when they said that they grew suspicious when his actual name and his alias were analyzed. What took them so long is anybody’s guess since he has been working here for the past two years.

In September 2019 computer hard disks were stolen from inside the INS Vikrant, the first indigenous aircraft carrier, that is being built in the shipyard. Two Bihar natives, ‘contractor laborers’ like Eidgul, were arrested and the NIA is investigating that incident. Interestingly, there are talks of Afghanistan being a friendly country and that he might be deported. The FIR in the case has been filed under “weak” sections of the IPC, mostly those pertaining to employment violating visa regulations.

INS Vikrant will carry around 40 aircraft including MiG-29K fighters, Kamov-31 Air Early Warning Helicopters, indigenous advanced light helicopters, and naval UAVs. 4 OTO Melara 76mm dual-purpose cannons, 4 AK-630 close-in weapon systems, two 32 cell VLS (Vertical Launch System), capable of firing 64 missiles in one sitting, Israeli Barak 1 surface to air missile for short-range and the long-range Barak 8 defense against aerial targets including fighters, helicopters, drones, and missiles have all been included. It is scheduled to join the navy by the middle of next year.

The Taliban connection and their paymasters in Pakistan ISI should also be part of the investigation. Security agencies should also look into local connections. It should come to light as to who helped Eidgul obtain these documents and who authorised a foreign national inside our shipyard. Cochin Shipyard has multiple levels of security especially for contract workers but this incident shows that these are all practically useless. 

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