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Blue Waters: The Submerged Devil


INS Rajput: The Ghazi Destroyer

Hrishabh Tiwari

30/05/2021

 

Merely six years after the 1965 conflict over Kashmir that concluded with Pakistan facing a crushing defeat by the hands of Indian Armed Forces, Pakistan was once again surrounded by the Indian Forces from all three fronts in 1971. In the 1965 war, Pakistan found it very difficult to tackle the raining fire from the skies, IAF's Folland Gnat aircraft popularly known as "Sabre Slayer" flew numerous sorties and bombed Pakistani cities at will, primarily coastal city Karachi and Sargodha kept buzzing with IAF's Gnat Aircrafts. Pakistan's Naval Intelligence sources had inklings about a radar station embraced with High Frequency Direction Finding (HF/DF) system in Dwarka, Gujarat that IAF had been using to guide its bombers over long distance, IAF had pinned down many PAF F-86 Sabre's in Kashmir and Western Pakistan well guided from the Dwarka signal station. Pakistani Navy launched 'Operation Dwarka' with a motive to destroy the radar station and hunt down Indian Navy's Aircraft Carrier INS Vikrant. A retired American submarine 'USS Diablo' later leased to Pakistani Navy was tasked to lead the operation, the submarine was none other than the dreaded PNS Ghazi, as per Pak Navy's plan, PNS Ghazi would engage and hunt heavy ships anchored in Bombay and seven other ships set off from Karachi port would attack the historical city of Dwarka. Indian Navy's great fortune saved the aircraft carrier INS Vikrant, while bombardment of Dwarka town was a total miss. Few years later, in 1971, Indian Navy launched 'Operation Trident' to seek revenge of the Dwarka bombing that resulted in Pak Navy losing a destroyer and 3 merchant ships while Indian Navy set oil tanks blazing in Karachi. Subsequently, in the 1971 Indo-Pak war that would lead to liberation of East Pakistan and formation of Bangladesh, Pakistan was once again seeking for INS Vikrant in Bay of Bengal but this time Indian Navy was well prepared to counter the ghost of PNS Ghazi, the Eastern Coast had been IN's fortress and combined with the intelligence sources, Indian Navy devised a plan to hunt down PNS Ghazi, India's first destroyer ship; INS Rajput was lurked in Vizag as a bait, falling right into Indian Navy's trap, PNS Ghazi came till Visakhapatnam gazing for INS Vikrant but it never returned, this time the predator itself became the prey. Even today, the remains of the PNS Ghazi is embedded in the seabed of Vizag waters some 1.5 nautical miles offshore.

 

1962, a year like no other for the Indian Armed Forces, the full fledged war between India and China flipped the 'Akhand Bharat' map on its head, Indo-Sino war saw both the nation fighting tooth to nail, while Indian Forces fought ferociously, China with much advanced weaponry and a willing government at Beijing trumped India and seized a cosmic 43,000 square kilometers of area in Aksai-Chin. "Hindi-Chini Bhai Bhai", a chant widely used in India after 1950s Peace treaty between both nations had now turned into a chastising whimper. The Indian Armed Forces had barely stood up on their feet following the Indo-Sino War, and a new ultimatum knocked at the door, starting April 1965, Pakistan started to escalate the long dating border disputes that remained unearthed since the 1947/48 war, the issue of Kashmir had been a downswing since the partition but in the year 1956 Pakistan started resorting to altercation in border areas of Punjab and Gujarat, although the enemy changed in 1965 but the confrontation remained the same.


On April 9, 1965, Indian and Pakistani border patrolling troops entered into skirmish after Pakistani soldiers opened fire at the Sardar Post of Indian Army in Rann Of Kutch, Gujarat. About 3,500 men from Pakistan's 51 Infantry Brigade launched successive attacks on Sardar Post and Tak Post under codenamed 'Operation Desert Hawk'. 150 personnel guarding the Sardar Post were taken aback by the stealthy Pak attack, however what followed on the night of April 9, could well be defined as one of the most glorious moments in Indian Military history. In the fight lasting over 12 hours, Pakistan Army made 3 attempts to overrun the post whilst India's Paramilitary force CRPF fought with fortitude and held their ground. At last, Pak army fled, leaving back 30 bodies of their soldiers including two officers. Following the vigorous firing exchange in Rann of Kutch, government of India and Pakistan bilaterally declared ceasefire to maintain peace, however the cunning and blood-thirsty Pakistan had different plans.

Ceasefire agreement between India-Pakistan

In August 1965, Pakistan started to infiltrate across the LoC in Kashmir in order to instigate the Muslim-majority Kashmiri population into an uprising against the Indian government, the plan of Pakistani Army to cause insurrection in the Valley was to be executed under covert 'Operation Gibraltar', heavy Pakistani troops from 'Azad Kashmir Regular Force' disguised as locals entered the Kashmir with a clear motive to dismantle the Delhi government headed by Prime minister Lal Bahadur Shashtri, however due to lack of coordination and irregular orders from Pak Military, this strategy of Pakistan went awry and soon intruders of 'Azad Kashmir Regular Force' were exposed to Indian Army. It is believed that around 5,000 to 20,000 Pakistani nationals intruded across LoC, on being unmasked to whole world, Pakistan tried to rationalize the operation saying, it was done to liberate Kashmir.

Pakistani infiltrators caught in Indian territory; Op Gibraltar

Following the miserable failure of the Operation Gibraltar, Pakistan was rattled and in a haste, it launched another operation on September 1, 1965 in Chamb sector of Akhnoor, aimed to attack Akhnoor town and destroy the Akhnoor Bridge that was a vital link for Indian Army, it would hence hamper the communications and supplies of Indian troops. The attack was a complete surprise to the Indian Army, to begin with the battle fought in Chamb, Pak Army had an upper hand and it came as a morale booster for their infantry, artillery and Armored division. However due to Indian Army's quick wit and early retaliation, Pakistan's plan to seize Akhnoor was foiled.

Akhnoor sector based on banks of Chenab
Akhnoor Bridge on Chenab river

The bombardment from the Pakistani army carried to the third day, with Akhnoor sector turning out to be a stalemate. On September 6, 15th Infantry Division of the Indian Army opened attack on Western Pakistan, the bold move to invade Pakistan was headed under the leadership of Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shashtri, the plan was to invade and attack the main city Lahore. Indian Air Force on the other hand started to bomb the military posts, oil tanker train, supply carrying trains and army camps of importance. The aerial war between both the nation in 1965 saw IAF carrying out almost 4,000 sorties to Pakistan's 2500 sorties. IAF's Folland Gnat aircrafts were widely used in dogfights against PAF's F-86 Sabres.

IAF's Folland Gnat aircraft. Pic credit: Bharat Rakshak

According to reports, Pakistani Naval intelligence sources had suspicion that the IAF's bomber aircrafts had been using Radar station based in Dwarka, Gujarat to fly deep in Pakistan and to even shoot down the Sabres. The High Frequency Direction Finding (HF/DF) radio system allowed aircrafts to fly long distance with undistorted signals and guidance. IAF's Hunter aircraft bombed the Sargodha radar station and air base, post the Pakistan's aerial attack on Indian Air force base in Pathankot. PAF had much advanced aircraft of those time like F-104 Starfighters and F-86 Sabres and Indian Air Force had contingent of Mysteres, Vampires, Ouragans, Hunters, Gnats and a few newly inducted Mig-21 that had not been used in a war but IAF air warriors always had the upper hand in dogfights. IAF had shot down 43 out of 186 aircrafts in Pak's inventory while IAF lost its aircraft only in ground bombing. In the crucial stage of the war, Pakistan had inklings about a conclusive attack from the Indian Navy's aircraft carrier INS Vikrant. Both the nation were in a high intensity, full fledged war that seem to have no ending, and amid the aerial war, Pakistan devised a plan that could well prove a turning point and could possibly handover them the victory festooned in a platter.

IAF's Canberra aircrafts bombed Sargodha on September 7, 1965. Pic credit: Bharat Rakshak

Just a year ago, in September 1964, Pakistan inducted an American Tench-class diesel electric Submarine 'USS Diablo'(AGSS-479) rechristened as 'PNS Ghazi'. USS Diablo (Spanish name for Devil) after serving the US navy and having scanned the deep waters for more than two decade had started to become rustic, the submarine was outpaced by newer and superior technology. US administration tried to infuse life into the submarine that was on its deathbed by upgrading its sonar, replacing the old diesel auxiliary with an electrical plant, installing a new air-conditioning unit. The submarine was very near and dear to US Navy for the role it had performed in World war II, but time had come to draw curtains, starting 1960s USS Diablo slowly began to phase itself out of operations and finally parked itself at Pearl Harbor. The submarine may have been grounded but it still had the same vigor, it was still holding its fearsome reputation and it would never go down without a fight. Around this time, Pakistan Navy was seeking and lobbying hard with USA for bringing 'USS Diablo' into its arsenal to counter the expanding Naval controls of India. USA agreed to lease the submarine to Pak Navy for four years with an option to renew the lease or purchase the submarine.

USS Diablo: Trench-class Diesel electric submarine

Before inducting USS Diablo, the naval officers of Pakistan underwent technical course aboard the 'USS Angler'. Sailing from US naval station, the submarine reached Karachi on September 4, 1964 with its commander Karamat Rahman Niazi but not as USS Diablo rather rechristened as (S-130) PNS Ghazi. 310 feet submarine inducted in Pak Navy made a buzz throughout South-East Asia and this time Delhi had a valid reason to worry.

PNS Ghazi reached Karachi

Since its induction, PNS Ghazi had been lurking in the Arabian Sea to hunt down the Indian Warships, with seven officers and 69 men on board PNS Ghazi had been sending panics to Indian heavy ships, many times it gazed at the Indian Navy's warships at periscope depth. PNS Ghazi equipped with American origin Mark-14 Torpedoes was threat to any warship, destroyer or even biggest of the aircraft carriers. The start of 1965 war meant a new assignment for the dreaded PNS Ghazi. After having to bear losses in aerial fight, Pakistani war room devised a plan to take down the radar station based in historical and religious town of Dwarka. Pakistan believed that IAF had been using the radar station to carry out the attacks on Pak cities and helping their Gnats in dogfight with PAF's superior aircrafts.

Mark-14 Torpedo

The failure named 'Op Dwarka'

 

The state of emergency had been declared following the Indo-Pak war, deep trenches and bunkers were dug all around the units in Dwarka, Gujarat. At that time, coastal town Dwarka carried two signal stations namely 'No. 114 SU' and 'No. 607 SU' along with a DSC Guard Unit (Defence Security Corps are meant to provide security to installations of the Armed Forces). Flying Officer S Damodaran was commanding both the signal units and he was the only officer posted in Dwarka at that time because the Dwarka Signal Station was under the watch of Jamnagar Air Force Base.


Some 190 nautical miles from Dwarka, Pakistan Naval Officer sitting in a war room were laying out the plans to carry out the attack on the signal units in Dwarka. Under the gloomy halogen lights, it was decided that PNS Ghazi wandering in the Arabian Sea would lure the Indian Navy's heavy warships anchored in Bombay offshore and hunt them down, while the main target would still be the aircraft carrier INS Vikrant. Subsequently, a fleet of seven ships; the PNS Babur, PNS Khaibar, PNS Badr, PNS Jahangir, PNS Alamgir, PNS Shah Jahan and the PNS Tipu Sultan would set off from Karachi and bomb the town and radar station.

The trail for fleet of seven Pakistani ships

September 7, 1965, a normal day for the DSC guards, unaware of the possible catastrophe heading their way, they were patrolling the camp areas as they usually do. At about 1 pm in the noon, sentry guards saw some movement in the waters far away from the shore, on gazing sprucely, they found a ship sailing east to west, quickly they informed about this uninvited guest to their commanding officer S Damodaran and on further inquiry it became clear that INS Talwar was heading from Bombay towards India's last port, Okha. The DSC guards were well aware of the fierce fight going on and they didn't want to leave any stone unturned that would cause a Himalayan blunder.


The nerves had settled and panic had just begun to calm when the sentries once again saw a ship but this time it was headed from west to east, 'Maybe, INS Talwar was returning from its routine duty', thought the sentry guards and turned a blind eye towards the ship. At around 5 pm, this ship sailed near to the coast with all its light on, it was moving back and forth as if taking a position to pounce. It was dark and after a while the ship turned down all its light and dropped the anchor, meanwhile the DSC guards were changing the shifts. All the seven ships that had set sail from Karachi reached Dwarka by 10 pm and raised their deck-gun towards the coastline.

PNS Babur; formerly HMS Diadem D84 of Royal Navy

Meanwhile the water level had risen due to high tide, Pakistani Naval Officers were totally neglectful of the changing parameters, and at about 1 am on September 8, 1965, they launched the attack. A loud SWIIISH and a BOOM marked the bombing of the Dwarka town. People were up and running towards the trenches and falling flat on the ground to take shelter. The Dwarka coast had the main Shree Dwarkadhish Temple, a girls hostel, a girls school, a light house and a civil hospital, all of these were in the firing range but due to rise in the water, the shells were carried above the coastline into open fields and towards empty railway station. In a 4 minute of bogus attack, the Pakistani ships had shelled around 50 bombs and none of them hit the target. Fearing retaliation from the Air Force station in Jamnagar, the ships set sailed backward in a haste.


Next day, the DSC guards and commanding officer S Damodaran drove on a jeep to check the damage and the casualty, and to their amusement none of the shells had hit the villagers instead the shells lied unburst in open fields, some fell between the temple and railway station, the Pakistani ship had fled after killing just a poor cow. The villagers collected about 25 to 30 shells and lifting them on their head they brought it to the signal station. All the shells carried the mark of Indian Ordnance and were dated 1941, 1942, 1943, 1945, these were the same ordnance that was given to Pakistan after partition. The Indian ammunitions were truly loyal to its master, In a telegram message to his parents, one of the DSC corporal wrote, "There are more donkeys in Dwarka than the people and none of the donkeys have been injured so what can one say about the people"

"The purpose of Dwarka operation was to provoke the Indian Navy to leave the comfort of their ports and come out for an engagement", Commodore(R)Anwar Mohiuddin, Pakistan Navy Officer on board the PNS Badar

The 'Operation Dwarka' was a complete failure for Pakistan but it still celebrates its false victory and has even coined Pak Navy Day on September 8. The PNS Ghazi too shadowing in the Arabian sea to hunt Indian warships endured no success, although Pakistan claims to have launched torpedoes on INS Brahmaputra while Indian Navy denied the false claims of Pakistan. The attack may have been a failure due to great fortune of Indian Navy but it still could have been catastrophic, the question on Indian Navy's potency were raised in Indian Parliament. It was a big blow for Indian Navy, INS Talwar sailing near Okha port just 30 km from Dwarka town was ready to seek battle but the Navy's hands were tied, the Ministry of Defence in South Block had issued written instructions which ordered the Indian Navy "not to proceed two hundred miles beyond Bombay nor North of the parallel of Porbander". This strange order remained unexplained while INS Talwar's skipper commander VA Dhareshwar along with several Indian naval officials were outraged by this conduct. In a way it was humiliating since Pak Navy had enraged war in the ocean and Indian Navy was not allowed to retaliate.


On September 23, 1965 after over a month of fierce fight, ceasefire was declared between both the nation with intervention of Soviet, USA and United Nation. An uneven, unsettled peace remained between 1966 to 1971. After the war, USA imposed sanctions that prevented PNS Ghazi to buy American spares for refits and repairs, however PNS Ghazi kept tracing Indian warships in the Arabian waters. Desperate for the spares, Pakistan signed a pact with Turkey in 1967 for refits that had an outlay of $ 1.5 million(in 1967 value), After the repairs and refits PNS Ghazi returned to Karachi in April 1970. Cutting forth to 1971, both the nations were once again in a deadlock, after millions of refugees fled from East Pakistan to take shelter in India amid the growing genocidal brutality of Pakistan against the minority Hindus and Bengali speaking people.


War was inevitable. India Army was ready and up in arms, while Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw along with Mukti Bahini were leading the ground attack, Pakistan was worried of the Indian Navy's attack, and they believed that INS Vikrant had been relocated in Vishakhapatnam.