December 4, 1971: How Indian Navy's 'Operation Trident' in 1971 destroyed Karachi port

Updated: Dec 04, 2021, 05:10 PM(IST)

The Indian Navy formed the covert Karachi Strike Group to destroy Pakistan's main harbour which had deployed the Pakistani fleet.

Operation Trident

On December 4, 1971, the Indian Navy launched "Operation Trident" as Indian vessels fired anti-ship missiles heavily damaging Pakistan's Karachi port. The Pakistan navy suffered huge casualties as a result of operations by the Indian Navy in the early hours of the war.

India's Navy Day is celebrated due to this operation. Indian Navy did not just sink several Pakistani ships but several hundred Pakistani Navy soldiers were killed as a result of surprise action by India.


Indian Navy starts patrol

During the days leading up to the India-Pakistan war in December, Pakistan had already declared a state of emergency on November 23 as tension gripped the subcontinent. Indian Navy immediately started patrols in the area around Karachi carrying out reconnaissance missions.

As expected, Pakistan jets attacked Indian airfields on December 3 leading to an all-out war in the winter of 1971.


Karachi Strike Group

The Indian Navy formed the covert Karachi Strike Group to destroy Pakistan's main harbour which had deployed the Pakistani fleet.

The Indian Navy put forward the Vidyut-class missile boats consisting of INS Veer, INS Nirghat and INS Nipat including two anti-submarine corvettes-INS Kiltan and INS Katchall under the command of Babru Bhan Yadav who was commanding the 25th missile boat squadron.


INS Nipat fires missiles

The Karachi strike group swooped down on Pakistani targets on the night of December 4. India began by taking down the Pakistani destroyer Khaibar killing over 200 sailors onboard. INS Nipat fired missiles and sank the MV Venus Challenger and destroyer PNS Shah Jahan.

As the long night followed, the Indian Navy took down Pakistani minesweeper PNS Muhafiz.


Operation Python

INS Nipat perhaps did the biggest damage by taking down the Kemari oil storage tanks with the missile hitting its target. The oil tank was hit causing an acute shortage for Pakistani vessels disabling their economic link and their ability to fight back.

India launched Operation Python in order to repel any Pakistani retaliation. India did not suffer any casualties even as Pakistani ships launched an attack and a Pakistani tanker was destroyed.


Pakistan caught unawares

Operation Trident was one of the classic operation undertaken by the Navy which was a masterstroke. It is widely read and followed to this day by military historians and naval academies the world over.

Pakistan was caught totally unawares even after launching a full scale attack on December 3, the fact that Indian forces expected an ariel attack but undertook a preemptive strike on Karachi took the Pakistan establishment completely by surprise.


Coordinated attack on Pak

Indian Navy's engagement with Pakistan during the 1971 war was the only skirmish at sea.

The India-Pakistan war was mainly a ground and aerial war, however, Indian Navy's strike set the pace for the forces which saw coordinated attack on the ground and in the air which was hard to bear for the Pakistan forces.

Pakistan surrendered in just two weeks to the Indian Army bringing to an end the last of the "open war" against India fought on a large scale.

The war led to the creation of Bangladesh, which the Pakistan army could never reconcile with as Indian forces held sway.

Pakistan then resorted to low-intensity, proxy war with India in several areas pushing infiltrators and personnel covertly which has never been a match for the Indian forces.


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