|Indo-Pakistani Naval War of 1971|
|Part of the Bangladesh Liberation War/Indo-Pakistani War of 1971|
|Commanders and leaders|
4 submarines (3 Daphné class and 1 Tench class)
6 midget submarines
Two ex Royal Saudi Navy fast Jaguar class patrol craft
At least 1 Indonesian naval vessel
US 7th Fleet
1 British carrier battle group
1 aircraft carrier|
5 ASW frigates
6 missile ships
1 repair ship
2 landing ships (Polnocny class)
2 groups of Soviet cruisers and destroyers
1 Soviet submarine
1 Soviet nuclear submarine
|Casualties and losses|
The Indo-Pakistani Naval War of 1971 refers to the maritime military engagements between the Indian Navy and the Pakistan Navy during the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971. The India–Pakistan hostilities during this time period were a direct result of the Bangladesh Liberation War, which had been ongoing in erstwhile East Pakistan (present-day Bangladesh) since the Pakistan Army's execution of Operation Searchlight in an effort to curb the Bengali nationalist movement in Pakistan's eastern wing. The series of naval operations began with the Indian Navy's exertion of pressure on Pakistan from the Indian Ocean, while the Indian Army and Indian Air Force moved in to choke Pakistani forces operating in East Pakistan on land. Indian naval operations comprised naval interdiction, air defence, ground support, and logistics missions.
With the success of Indian naval operations in East Pakistan, the Indian Navy subsequently commenced two large-scale operations: Operation Trident and Operation Python. These operations were focused on West Pakistan, and preceded the start of formal hostilities between India and Pakistan.
The Indian Navy did not play a major role during the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965 as the war focused on land-based conflict. On 7 September, a flotilla of the Pakistan Navy under the command of Commodore S.M. Anwar carried out a bombardment, Operation Dwarka, of the Indian Navy's radar station of Dwarka, 200 miles (320 km) south of the Pakistani port of Karachi. While there was no damage to the radar station, this operation caused the Indian Navy to undergo a rapid modernization and expansion. Consequently, the Indian Navy budget grew from ₹ 350 million to ₹ 1.15 billion. The Indian Navy added a squadron to its combatant fleet by acquiring six Osa-class missile boats from the Soviet Union. The Indian Naval Air Arm was also strengthened.
As the Indian military offensive in East Pakistan increased, the Pakistan Navy had dispatched her entire submarine squadron on both fronts. Codename Operation Falcon, the Pakistan Navy began their reconnaissance submarine operations by deploying PNS Hangor, a Daphné class submarine, near the coastal water of West-Pakistan, and PNS Ghazi, Tench class long range submarine, near the coastal areas of East-Pakistan.
According to the Lieutenant R. Qadri, an Electrical engineer officer at Hangor during the time, the assigned mission was considered quite difficult and highly dangerous, with the submarine squadron sailing under the assumption that the dangerous nature of this mission meant a great mortal risk to the submarine and her crew.
On the midnight of 21 November 1971, PNS Hangor, under the command of Commander Ahmed Tasnim, began her reconnaissance operations. Both PNS Ghazi and PNS Hangor maintained coordination and communication throughout patrol operations.
On 2 and 3 December, Hangor had detected a large formation of ships from Indian Navy's Western fleet which included cruiser INS Mysore. Hangor had passed an intelligence to Pakistan naval forces of a possible attack by the observed Indian Armada near Karachi. The Indian Naval Intelligence intercepted these transmissions, and dispatched two Anti-submarine warfare frigates, INS Khukri and the INS Kirpan of 14th Squadron – Western Naval Command.
On 9 December 1971, at 1957 hours, Hangor sunk Khukri with two homing torpedoes. According to her commander, the frigate sank within the matter of two minutes. The frigate sank with 192 hands on board. Hangor also attacked the INS Kirpan on two separate occasions, but the torpedoes had missed their target. Kirpan quickly disengaged and successfully evaded the fired torpedoes.
On 4 December, the Indian Navy, equipped with P-15 Termit anti-ship missiles, launched Operation Trident against the port of Karachi. In 1971, Karachi not only housed the headquarters of the Pakistan Navy but was also the backbone of Pakistan's economy, as it served as the hub of Pakistan's maritime trade, meaning that any potential blockade of Karachi would be disastrous for Pakistan's economy. The defence of Karachi harbour was therefore paramount to the Pakistani High Command and it was heavily defended against any airstrikes or naval strikes. Karachi received some of the best defences Pakistan had to offer as well as cover from strike aircraft based at two airfields in the area. The Pakistani Navy had launched submarine operations to gather intelligence on Indian naval efforts. Even so, with multiple intelligence reports by the submarines, the Navy had failed to divert the naval attacks, due to misleading intelligence and communications.
The Indian Navy's preemptive strike resulted in an ultimate success. The Indian missile ships successfully sunk the minesweeper PNS Muhafiz, the destroyer PNS Khaibar and the MV Venus Challenger which, according to Indian sources, was carrying ammunition for Pakistan from the United States forces in Saigon. The destroyer PNS Shah Jahan was damaged beyond repair. The missile ships also bombed the Kemari oil storage tanks of the port which were burnt and destroyed causing massive loss to the Karachi Harbour. Operation Trident was an enormous success with no physical damage to any of the ships in the Indian task group, which returned safely to their garrison.
Pakistan's Airforce retaliated by bombing Okha harbour, scoring direct hits on fuelling facilities for missile boats, ammunition dump and the missile boats jetty. Though India had anticipated this assault and moved their missile boats to other locations prior thus preventing any losses, the destruction of the special fuel tank prevented any further incursions until Operation Python. On the way back from the bombing the PAF aircraft encountered an Alizé 203 Indian aircraft and shot it down.
On 6 December, a false alarm by a Pakistani Fokker aircraft carrying naval observers caused a friendly fire confrontation between Pakistan's Navy and Air Force. A PAF jet mistakenly strafed the frigate PNS Zulfikar, breaking off shortly after the ship got itself recognised by frantic efforts. The crew suffered some casualties besides the damage to ship. The ship was taken back to port for repair.
The Indian Navy launched a second large-scale operation on the midnight of 8 and 9 December 1971. The operation, codenamed Operation Python, was commenced under the command of Chief of Naval Staff of the Indian Navy Admiral S.M. Nanda. The INS Vinash, a missile boat, and two multipurpose frigates, INS Talwar and INS Trishul participated in the operation. The attack squadron approached Karachi and fired four missiles. During the raid, the Panamanian vessel Gulf Star and the British ship SS Harmattan were sunk and Pakistan Navy's Fleet Tanker PNS Dacca received heavy damage. More than 50% of Karachi's total fuel reserves were destroyed in the attack. More than $3 billion worth of economic and social sector damage was inflicted by the Indian Navy. Most of Karachi's oil reserves were lost and warehouses and naval workshops destroyed. The operation damaged the Pakistani economy and hindered the Pakistan Navy's operations along the western coast.
After the successful operations by Indian Navy, India controlled the Persian Gulf and Pakistani oil route. The Pakistani Navy's main ships were either destroyed or forced to remain in port. A partial naval blockade was imposed by the Indian Navy on the port of Karachi and no merchant ship could approach Karachi. Shipping traffic to and from Karachi, Pakistan's only major port at that time, ceased. Within a few days after the attacks on Karachi, the Eastern fleet of Indian Navy had success over the Pakistani forces in East Pakistan. By the end of the war, the Indian Navy controlled the seas around both the wings of Pakistan.
The War ended for both the fronts after the Instrument of Surrender of Pakistani forces stationed in East Pakistan was signed at Ramna Race Course in Dhaka at 16.31 IST on 16 December 1971, by Lieutenant General A. A. K. Niazi, Commander of Pakistani forces in East Pakistan and accepted by Lieutenant General Jagjit Singh Aurora, General Officer Commanding-in-chief of Eastern Command of the Indian Army.
The Commander-in-Chief of the Indian Navy's Eastern Naval Command Vice Admiral Nilakanta Krishnan also received the Naval surrender from the Flag Officer East Pakistan Navy, Rear Admiral Mohammad Shariff. Sharif surrendered his TT pistol to Krishnan at 1631 hrs saying "Admiral Krishnan, Sir, soon I will be disarmed. Your Navy fought magnificently and had us cornered everywhere. There is no one I would like to surrender my arms to other than the Commander-in-Chief of the Eastern Fleet." The TT Pistol is still placed in a covered glass display at the Indian Military Academy's Museum.
The damage inflicted on the Pakistani Navy stood at 7 gunboats, 1 minesweeper, 1 submarine, 2 destroyers, 3 patrol craft belonging to the coast guard, 18 cargo, supply and communication vessels, and large scale damage inflicted on the naval base and docks in the coastal town of Karachi. Three merchant navy ships – Anwar Baksh, Pasni and Madhumathi – and ten smaller vessels were captured. Around 1900 personnel were lost, while 1413 servicemen were captured by Indian forces in Dhaka. According to one Pakistan scholar, Tariq Ali, the Pakistan Navy lost a third of its force in the war.
Admiral Shariff wrote in a 2010 thesis that "the generals in Air Force and Army, were blaming each other for their failure whilst each of them projected them as hero of the war who fought well and inflicted heavy casualties on the advancing Indians". At the end, each general officers in the Air Force and Army placed General Niazi's incompetency and failure as responsible for causing the war, Sharif concluded. Sharif also noted that:
The initial military success (Searchlight and Barisal) in regaining the law and order situation in East-Pakistan in March of 1971 was misunderstood as a complete success.... In actuality, the law and order situation deteriorated with time, particularly after September of the same year when the population turned increasingly against the [Pakistan] Armed Forces as well as the [Yahya's military] government. The rapid increase in the number of troops though bloated the overall strength, however, [it] did not add to our fighting strength to the extent that was required. A sizeable proportion of the new additions were too old, inexperienced or unwilling....— Rear Admiral Mohammad Sharif, Flag Officer Commanding, Eastern Naval Command (Pakistan), 
Pakistan retaliated by causing extensive damage through a single B-57 attack on Indian naval base Okha. The bombs scored direct hits on fuel dumps, ammunition dump and the missile boats jetty.
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