India-Pak 1971 war: How Indian Navy operation destroyed Karachi harbour

Updated: Dec 04, 2017, 03:08 PM(IST)

On the occasion of the 46th Indian Navy Day, we look at how the Indian Navy carried out 'Operation Trident' on December 4th, 1971.

INS Nipat, INS Nirghat and INS Veer

The Indo-Pakistan war of 1971 was a military confrontation and possibly one of the shortest but the most significant wars in the history of the two countries which took place in the liberation war in East Pakistan.

The attack was also referred to as the Operation Trident.

The war happened from 3 December 1971 to 16 December 1971, when the Indian Navy launched its first ever anti-ship missiles, which included three Vidyut-class missile boats INS Nipat, INS Nirghat and INS Veer, two anti-submarine Arnala class corvettes, INS Kiltan and INS Katchall, and a tanker of the Indian Navy, on Pakistan's port city of Karachi.


Shortest attack

The attack was planned by Admiral Sardarilal Mathradas Nanda and masterminded by then Fleet Operations Officer of the Navy Gulab Mohanlal Hiranandani which was carried out at night since Pakistan did not have aircrafts that could carry out bombings at the time. The fleet sailed from Okha port in Gujra, towards Pakistani waters - reaching 70 miles south of Karachi.

In 90 minutes, the Indian navy attacked the Karachi Harbour, which had the Pakistani Navy headquarters as well as oil storage - killing over 5 Pakistani navel representatives and injuring over 700 men, destroying a minesweeper, a destroyer, a cargo vessel carrying ammunition, and fuel storage tanks. As well as another destroyer which was heavily damaged and eventually discarded.


Operation Trident

After destroying the Pakistani destroyer - PNS Khaibar, MV Venus Challenger, PNS Shah Jahan, and PNS Muhafiz, the fleet was only 26 kilometres away from the Karachi port when it decided to attack the oil tanks and refineries - accomplishing the operation trident with full success. After which the fleet withdrew towards Bombay.

Several Indian Navy representatives were honoured and given awards for the achievements with the success of Operation Trident. Commander Babru Bhan Yadav was awarded the Maha Vir Chakra along with Lieutenant Commander Bahadur Nariman Kavina (commanding officer of INS Nipat), Lieutenant Commander Inderjit Sharma (commanding officer of INS Nirghat), Lieutenant Commander Om Prakash Mehta (Commanding Officer of INS Veer) and M. N. Sangal (Master Chief, INS Nirghat) were awarded a Vir Chakra and the Fleet Operations Officer Gulab Mohanlal Hiranandani was awarded the Nausena Medal for his outstanding efforts.


Operation Python

After the success of Operation Trident, Pakistan, to counter these moves, launched Operation Python on the night on 8/9 December 1971. A strike group consisting of one missile boat and two frigates attacked the group of ships off the coast of Karachi. While India suffered no losses, Pakistani fleet tanker PNS Dacca was damaged beyond repair, and the Kemari Oil Storage facility was lost. Two other foreign ships stationed in Karachi were also sunk during the attack.

A small strike group consisting of the missile boat INS Vinash, equipped with four Styx missiles, and two multipurpose frigates, INS Talwar and INS Trishul, approached Manora, a peninsula south of the Port of Karachi. During their voyage, a Pakistani patrol vessel was encountered and sunk.


Operation Python fails

The Indian Navy's official historian, Vice Admiral Hiranandani in his book Transition to Triumph, mentioned that while the group approached Karachi, electronic surveillance revealed that the radar there had stopped rotating and was directed straight at the group, confirming that it had been detected.

The group detected a batch of ships at a distance of 22 kilometres. Vinash immediately fired four of its missiles, the first of which struck the fuel tanks at the Kemari Oil Farm causing a heavy explosion. Another missile hit and sank the Panamanian fuel tanker SS Gulf Star.

The third and fourth missiles hit the Pakistani Navy fleet tanker PNS Dacca and the British merchant vessel SS Harmattan. Dacca was damaged beyond repair, while Harmattan sank. As Vinash had now expended all of its missiles, the group immediately withdrew to the nearest Indian port.


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