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Navy Day: When Indian Navy ships bombed Karachi harbour and turned the tides in the 1971 Indo-Pak war

3 Vidyut class missile boats of the Indian Navy, INS Nirghat, INS Nipat and INS Veer had wreaked havoc on the Karachi harbour.

Every year December 4 is commemorated as the Indian Navy Day to commemorate the audacious attack on the Karachi harbour by the Indian Naval missile boats during the 1971 Bangladesh liberation war. On this day, every year, the Indian Navy organises a Beating Retreat ceremony at the Gateway of India, Mumbai. The Naval bands perform across places in the country while warships and aircraft are open for visitors.

The day reminds one of the courage and valour that symbolises the Indian Navy. The operation, codenamed as ‘Operation Trident’ was carried out by the Indian Naval ships at the intervening night of December 4 and 5 that caused significant damages to the harbour of Karachi along with vessels parked there amidst the ongoing Indo-Pak 1971 war. 4 Pakistani vessels were sunk by the Indian offensive operation and the Karachi harbour was rendered non-operational due to the severe damages caused by the Indian assault.

Pakistan lost a minesweeper, a destroyer, a cargo vessel carrying ammunition, and fuel storage tanks in Karachi. Along with this, another destroyer was also seriously damaged and eventually discarded.

The Indian offensive had 3 Vidyut class missile boats, 2 anti-submarines and a tanker.

The names of the missile boats were INS Nirghat, INS Nipat and INS Veer.

The Karachi port was the headquarters of the Pakistani Navy. In the run-up to the 1971 Indo-Pak war, as the situation along the border flared up, the Indian Navy decided to commission three Vidyut-class missile boats in the vicinity of Okha(Gujarat) to carry out patrols in the Arabian sea. Their responsibility was to keep a close watch on the Pakistani Navy’s activities as the Pakistani fleet too used the same waters for carrying out their operations.

However, on December 3, when Pakistan officially initiated a war against India by carrying out attacks on the Indian airfields along the border, Operation Trident was launched on December 4, 1971, taking Pakistani Forces, especially Navy by surprise and pulverising the harbour of Karachi along with Pakistani vessels.

Among the ‘kills’ were Pakistan’s destroyer PNS Khaibar, which was sunk, the merchant ship MV Venus Challenger, which was carrying ammunitions for Pakistan’s army and airforce, and a minesweeper PNS Muhafiz. India’s INS Nipat had set an oil depot in Karachi harbour on fire, creating chaos all around.

In a 90-minute operation, 4 Pakistani vessels had been destroyed along with Karachi’s fuel storage facility.

The operation proved to be a key milestone in India’s victory over Pakistan in the 1971 war. It put paid to the Pakistani machinations of sending vessels in the Bay of Bengal waters to crush the Bangladesh liberation movement. With the port dysfunctional and vessels sunk, Pakistani Navy could not launch an operation to aid their beleaguered Army that was fighting a futile war in Bangladesh. Subsequently, the war ended in a decisive Indian victory with about 93000 Pakistani prisoners of war surrendering to the Indian Armed Forces on December 16, 1971.

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Staff reporter at OpIndia

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