x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

US links strong, despite shooting

Deputy secretary of state offers regrets over incident at sea

DUBAI // The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has reaffirmed its strong ties with America as a top-level US official expressed deep regrets over Monday's shooting of an Emirati boat, which killed one man and injured three.

But calls are growing to hold those responsible for the death of the Indian A Sekar, 29, accountable for the incident.

The state news agency Wam reported the US deputy secretary of state William Burns phoned the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Dr Anwar Gargash, to express deep regret over the shooting by a naval ship off Dubai.

At the same time, an online petition was launched by a Chennai executive, demanding that the US justify the attack, as the opposition in Sekar's state of Tamil Nadu sought a UAE-India investigation.

Sekar, who was preparing to go home to be married, was killed aboard the Tharath when the USNS Rappahannock fired on it.

The navy said the boat was sailing towards it at speed and failed to respond to repeated warnings, so it opened fire "in self-defence" 10 nautical miles off Dubai.

The Tharath was carrying six Indians and two Emiratis. The crew said there had not been any warnings.

Injured were Muthu Muniraj, 28, Muthu Kannan, 40, and Pandu Sanadhan, 26.

In the phone call to Dr Gargash, Mr Burns said investigations into the cause of the incident were under way.

The minister said they had agreed on "the need to know the causes of the incident … for transparent cooperation between the two countries".

Muthamizh Vendhan, a Chennai executive, has started a petition on Change.org to press the US to explain the attack and raise awareness about what he felt was "an important issue".

A poster accompanying the petition reads: "America, don't act as world leader or big brother. Stop your atrocities." It had been signed by 321 people by yesterday.

In Tamil Nadu, the main opposition party Dravida Munnethra Kazhagam (DMK), has called for a joint investigation with the UAE into the incident.

In a memorandum to the prime minister Manmohan Singh, DMK politicians also asked the government to ensure full compensation for Sekar's family and for the three injured fishermen.

It said compensation should be paid by the US, UAE and the Dubai company that employed them.

"Government must impress upon [the US] for a full investigation into the case to help avoid tragic incidents of this kind in future elsewhere in the world," the memo read.

SM Krishna, India's external affairs minister, said in Bangalore yesterday his ministry would hold its own inquiry into Sekar's death based on a report being prepared by the Indian ambassador to the Emirates, MK Lokesh.

"I am expecting a report from our ambassador," Mr Krishna told the Press Trust of India. "Only after seeing the report could we come to a conclusion."

On Wednesday evening, a government official from the Ramanathapuram district of Tamil Nadu visited Sekar's family.

"We have handed over a cheque of 500,000 rupees (Dh33,309) to the family members," said K Nanthakumar, the district collector. "We have also forwarded a request to the state government to provide employment opportunities to the family."

Mr Nanthakumar said a cheque for 50,000 rupees had also been given to the families of those injured.