The Ghazi Attack: Why did India destroy records of one of its greatest naval victories
Why would a country destroy records of one of its greatest naval adventures?
That’s a question worth pondering as movie goers keenly await the release of India’s first sea warfare movie The Ghazi Attack, believed to be based on true events during the 1971 Bangladesh War.
Pakistan’s PNS Ghazi, an attack submarine leased from the United States, sank under mysterious circumstances off the port of Vishakapatnam in India on Dec 4, 1971.
The official Indian version is that Ghazi was torpedoed by one of its fighter ships that led to its eventual destruction and sinking, while Pakistan claims that the submarine ran into one of underwater mines that it was laying for Indian vessels, specifically for India’s aircraft carrier INS Vikrant.
Despite being one of India’s few successful underwater adventures, all official records pertaining the Ghazi episode were destroyed by Indian authorities in 1980, according to a May 2010 report in the Times of India.
“An act of GOD”
A decorated 1971 veteran, Lt General JFR Jacob, (retd), alleged in an article he himself published on a news website in 2010 that the Indian Navy had no information about the sinking of Ghazi until informed by local fishermen the next day.
Jacob wrote, “Krishnan (N Krishnan, the then commanding officer of Indian Navy’s Eastern Naval Command) said he had no doubt that the wreckage was that of the Ghazi and that the sinking of the Ghazi was an act of God. He stated that the Navy was unaware that the Ghazi had sunk. He had rewarded the fishermen who had found the wreckage. I told him that there was no threat now to the aircraft carrier INS Vikrant, which had been the prime target of the Ghazi.”
He further revealed,
“On the morning of December 4, Krishnan again called me, asking if I had sent a report on the Ghazi. I replied in the negative, saying that as it was a naval matter, I had presumed that he had done so. He seemed relieved and told me that I should forget our conversation of the previous day and that he was in discussions with the Navy chief, Admiral SM Nanda, in Delhi.”
On Dec 9, 1971, the Indian Navy announced that its destroyer had sunk Ghazi.
The Ghazi Attack – the movie
Just how much The Ghazi Attack will help clear the air around one of the most secretive episodes of the 1971 Bangladesh War is anyone’s guess until the movie’s release date Feb 17.
By its name and the looks of the trailer, one gets a sense that the film-maker decided to go with the India version of events. Any hidden twist in the plot, however, is what movie-goers would relish watching.
The lead-up to the sinking of INS Ghazi
Ghazi set sail from Pakistan port of Karachi on Nov 14 for Bangladesh, which was then witnessing an indegenious uprising against Pakistan’s rule. Its order was to attack INS Vikrant, an aircraft carrier that was playing an instrumental role in India’s naval blockade of Bangladesh in order to cut it off from Pakistan.
The plan of Ghazi heading in the direction of India’s Vikrant got known to the Indian Navy. N Krishnan of the Eastern Naval Command, is said to have come up with a plan as per which he ordered INS Vikrant off to safety to a secret location, Port X Ray, in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
India’s World War 2 era destroyer INS Rajput, which was sent to Vishakapatnam for decommissioning, was sent off the coast to pretend it was Vikrant. The commanding officer of Rajput was asked to generate “heavy wireless traffic” so as to make its exact location known to Ghazi. The Pakistani submarine arrived in Vizag on Nov 27.
On Dec 3, a large explosion was reportedly heard by locals living around the Vizag harbour. Reportedly soon after, local fisherman found floating debris which they passed to the Indian Navy, who ascertained that it belonged to Diablo, the American name of Ghazi before it was transferred to Pakistan.