Without a decisive naval force, we can do nothing definitive.
The aforementioned quote, often attributed to George Washington, signifies and underscores the importance of the navy in warfare. The war of 1965 is full of valor, bravery and professional acumen exhibited by the personnel of the armed forces of Pakistan. Pakistan Navy, traditionally described as a ‘Silent Service’, played a pivotal role in helping the Pakistan Army and Pakistan Air Force defend the territorial integrity of Pakistan by countering Indian designs. From naval combats to enduring maneuverability at sea to tactical surveillance of the coasts, Pakistan Navy made its presence felt against the larger and indomitable Indian armed forces during those 17 days of the war.
Following the start of the war, then Naval Chief, Admiral Afzal Rehman Khan directed all the naval units to take defensive positions with special emphasis on ‘ready-to-give-battle’ as a watchword. The naval flotilla of Pakistan was tasked with a mission to maintain normalcy at harbors, ensure merchant shipping, safeguard sea lanes and disrupt any potential Indian designs against maritime security. However, Pakistan Navy soon resorted to an offensive posture by deploying PNS Ghazi and other PN ships including PNS Babur, Alamgir, Jehangir, Khaibar, Badr, Shahjahan and Tipu Sultan.
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The tale of the courage of the Pakistan Navy
Nothing can be more daring and courageous than the act of the Pakistan Navy taking the war to the enemy waters. In that regard, Operation Dwarka is worth mentioning here. Dwarka was a military fortress of India located about 200 miles southwest of Karachi. What made it more lethal during the 1965 War was the installation of strong radar systems. Apart from maintaining a constant eye on enemy aircraft and ships, it also helped in preventing an aerial and naval attack on Jamnagar and Bombay. Thereby, giving a crucial edge to the Indian forces. However, the superiority of Indian forces during the war was soon shattered by Pakistan Navy. With its six destroyers and one cruiser, Pakistan Navy mounted an enormous attack on the coastal fortress of Dwarka from a distance of just 5.5 nautical miles.
Orders were issued on the afternoon of 7 September to carry out the naval bombardment at Dwarka. The attack was launched on 8 September at 30 past midnight and completed in four minutes with almost 350 rounds fired at the fortress. Following the swift naval bombardment, Pakistan Navy destroyed the radar systems at Dwarka. Interestingly, the intensity and effectiveness of those attacks were even admitted by the former Indian Naval Chief Admiral Surendra Nath Kohli in his book ‘We Dared’.
According to him, many officers of the Indian Navy felt ashamed and could not hold their heads high in the aftermath of the attack. Resultantly, many personnel of the Indian Army and Indian Air Force were deployed towards Kutch, leaving other areas partly indefensible. It is pertinent to mention that the purpose of the attack was to draw heavy military units away from Bombay for PNS Ghazi to launch an attack, divert the Indian air attack away from a northern region close to Karachi and shatter the Indian morale.
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The attack was so swift and enormous that Indian Navy ships could not even respond back. Although some gunfire from the shore was reported but that soon went into silence. The entire fortress of Dwarka plunged into darkness in no time. As a result of the valor and professional acumen of the Pakistan Navy, no movement of Indian Navy units was observed in the North Arabian Sea and Bay of Bengal during the war.
Even after the ceasefire was announced on 23 September, PNS Ghazi kept patrolling the Arabian Sea till 27 September. It is pertinent to mention that the commanding officer, Commander K.R. Niazi became the recipient of Sitara-e-Jurat and later became the Naval Chief owing to his gallantry during the war. By the same token, the valor, shrewdness, planning and acumen exhibited by Commander in Chief, Vice Admiral A.R. Khan during the war deserves immense praise. He was the one who ordered the naval bombardment at Dwarka, thereby, proving the indomitable resilience and strength of the Pakistan Navy against the Indian forces.
As September 08 will mark Navy Day, the entire nation must be reminded to celebrate the acts of the Pakistan Navy filled with valor, gallantry, courage and confidence during the 1965 War. It has proved how smaller navies can win bigger battles if remain firmly committed to defending the geographical frontiers beyond the sea. With more challenging times in the future as a result of changing geopolitical realities, the sentinels of the sea must prepare themselves to become heroes again.
The author teaches in the Department of Political Science and IR at the University of Central Punjab Lahore. The views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.