Sohail Ahmad Azmie
PAKISTAN Navy submarine Ghazi in late sixties and early seventies was the symbol of an irretrievable depth of fear for the Indian Navy. The submarine remained a nightmare for the Indian fleet for years. In the early phase of 1971 war, Indian aircraft carrier Vik rant was forced to find shelter nearly a 1000 miles away from its home port Vishakhapatnam. Indian Navy was well aware of the prowess of Ghazi that had earlier wrecked their operational plans in 1965War. Vice Admiral Krishnan, the Commander of Indian Eastern Naval Command, was in no position to afford keeping his centre of gravity open to Ghazi’s attack, so he moved it deepdown South. It was a terrible misfortune for the submarine that Vik rant wasn’t in the area! Politico-military situation in East Pakistan compelled Pakistani military commanders to recalibrate their options. Internal strife, coupled with India’s active support to Bengali separatists, required necessary measures by both political and military leaders in Pakistan. More over, as part of ‘defence of the east lies in the west’ strategy, the military leadership must have argued for ‘releasing pressure’ on the East by doing something in the West or at sea. According to Pakistani military calculus, it was no wonder that after decapitating our Air Force in the East, India would blockade East Pakistan, primarily through INS Vikrant, for a decisive blow. Indians must have estimated that with absolutely no road link, and the sea routes cut, Pakistan would be in no position to continue the hostilities and would bow down to the Indian demands. The only naval vessel that could keep India’s major operational strategy of bringing INS Vikrant into the theatre, at bay, was PNS/M Ghazi. If Ghazi could bottle up the Indian fleet in Vishakhapatnam port and strike INS Vikrant, the outcome of war would enormously tilttowards Pakistan – this could have been thought by the Pakistani military leadership during those days of November 1971.PNS Ghazi was a Tench Class ex US Navy submarine with the name USS Diablo. The submarine was commissioned in the US Navy on 31 March 1945, and served mainly on the US side of the Atlantic and Caribbean. USS Diablo was decommissioned and decommissioned as PNS/M GHAZI on 1 Jun 1964 in Pakistan Navy. Ghazi’s induction made Pakistan Navy the only navy in the region to operate submarines. This prowler of the deep made Indian Navy grope in the dark during 1965 war for possible solutions of dealing with her and the Indians found none! After having won laurels in 1965, Ghazi the dauntless spreader of fear in the Indian hearts, was called for another daring act in 1971. On 14 November 1971,Ghazi was assigned a Top Secret mission and the Commanding Officer of the boat, Commander Zafar Mohammad Khan, was instructed to open the mission package midway between Karachi and Vishakhapatnam. Ghazi sailed with mines loaded in some of its torpedo tubes. The sailors might have known what they would be doing but where and when; it rested only with the commander of the ship. This, operationally, was a very challenging mission –i.e., sailing of a subsurface vessel in those days of 1970s nearly 2000 miles away from homeport with such daring task. But, as the valiant sons of this great nation, the submariners took the challenge unhesitatingly, unconditionally and indubitably! Ghazi sailed from Karachi towards Vishakhapatnam with a strong report that INS Vikrant would be in the port or around. PNS/M Ghazi arrived in the assigned area, the Victor Zone, on 2-3 December 1971. Ghazi searched for the elusive enemy – INS Vikrant – in deeper waters, but remained unsuccessful, because the carrier was actually far away near the Andaman Islands at that time. It returned back to the area close to the port. On the night of 3/4 December, while laying mines off Vishakhapatnam harbour, Ghazi probably misjudged
Her position and doubled back into her own mine field, thus setting off a mine that she laid for the enemy. Mine blew and cracked open her forward torpedo room. The destruction was so sudden and massive that it must have overwhelmed the damage control efforts, there by bringing an end to a great submarine. The submarine sank with all crew onboard just after half past midnight at distance of about 1.5 nautical miles from Vishakhapatnam breakwater. According to Indian claims, it was INS Rajput, under command of Lt Cdr Inder Singh, who was tasked to find the submarine Ghazi and destroy it. Indians maintain that it wasRajput, which fired depth charges and destroyed Ghazi. On a contradictory account, Indians also claim that the fishermen in the area reported a large oil slick and debris, which was confirmed by INS Akshay, under command of Lt Sridhar More, sailed from Vishakhapatnamon 5 December. Had Singh destroyed the submarine on 4 December then why would Indian Navy send another vessel a day later to confirm what was happening, that’s a simple question, which puts much of the Indian story to sword. Indian Navy, actually was in no position to confirm the presence of Ghazi, else there would have been considerable anti-submarine warfare efforts, which no record of Indian Navy suggests were really under taken. Before taking credit for sinking our submarine Ghazi, Indians should have rationally and wisely thought of the ground realities. In the words of their own seniors officers – like Admiral Nanda (Indian Naval Chief during 71 War), Lt Gen JFR Jacob, Vice Admiral Hiranandani and Admiral A run Prakash – the Indian Navy had nothing to do with the sinking of Ghazi. They even suggest that the Indian Navy had no clue of presence of PNS Ghazi let alone detecting it near Vishakhapatnam. Admiral S M Nanda in his book The Man who Bombed Karachi published in 2004 writes on page 246, that “unusual and suspicious sound of a blast, near the entrance to the Visage harbour on 3-4 December night that led to the detection and sinking of the Ghazi, was reported by fisherman to the war-watching organization.” Who was the fisherman? S N VSudhir writes in his article Vishakhapatnam: Sunk Pakistani Submarine Ghazi is an Enigma, inDeccan Chronicle on 24 November 2015, about the fisherman Mr. NannapaneniVenkateswarlu. Venkateswarlu was the captain of fishing vessel MT Suneeta Rani, operating off Vizag coast at that time, who said, “I heard a deafening sound but I was not sure what exactly happened. I am certain that there were no Indian Navy vessels around. ”Lt Gen JFR Jacob, Chief of Staff of Indian Army Eastern Command during 1971 war, writes in his article The Truth behind the Navy’s Sinking of Ghazi, published in Sify News on 26 May 2010, that“ PNS Ghazi blew up due to an internal explosion while laying mines off the port of Vishakhapatnam, probably at the end of November or the beginning of December 1971”.Hegoes on to suggest that Indian Eastern Naval Commander V/Admiral Krishanan only knew of the incident of Ghazi through fishermen and he had no knowledge of its presence or destruction. Indian Navy officially announced sinking of Ghazi on 9 December 1971, which is way too inexplicable! Jacob also wrote a detailed account unmasking Indian Navy’ sunsubstantiated claims about Ghazi in his book Surrender at Dacca: Birth of a Nation, published in 1997. Jacob discloses that the Indian Navy intentionally destroyed all the record pertaining to Ghazi, so that the truth might never surface, which could question the Indian Navy’s untrue grandiosity. Admiral Arun Prakash, while speaking to News X, in September2011, had said that PNS Ghazi sank under mysterious circumstances and INS Rajput hadnothing to do with its sinking. Vice Admiral Hiranandani, in his book Transition to Triumph:Indian Navy, 1965-1975, published in 2000, posts that the truth about Ghazi is unknown tomany, suggesting that Indian Navy’s claims of ‘sinking’ Ghazi are nowhere close to being trueor consistent.
PNS Ghazi embraced Shahadat off the Indian coast with all its crew onboard. Thevaliant warriors went onboard the submarine never to return home ever again! What trulyhappened to Ghazi – the reasons, the conditions and the circumstances are not yet fully known, thanks largely to Indian stubbornness for not letting the US and the Russian researchers to conduct the site survey and explore the real causes of Ghazi’s sinking. Lt Cdr Inder Singh was awarded Vir Chakar for his ‘valiant efforts’, and this makes things worse for India to let the neutral analysts search for facts, which would be very different than claimed by the Indian Navy. A dilemma of choosing the tough task over a reasoned course of action. The names of these brave sons who chose the path of ultimate glory by embracing shahadat onboard GHAZI would never fade away from memory – as they keep radiating the message, the message of hope, courage and immutable dedication to cause. May the souls of these martyrs rest in peace.