The Pakistani submarine sailed from Karachi, entered Colombo, patrolled outside Madras, now Chennai and got sunk at the mouth of Visakhapatnam harbour. It is still a mystery, an incredible performance by any standard. The details are not discernible, the drama, the intrigue, the plot is not only amazing, but it captures our imagination even after 45 years.
Let me take you back to the times when it all started.
Mujibur Rahman had won the elections. If he were made the Prime Minister, Bangladesh would not have been created. The obsessive desire and ambition of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, led to war and the country split into two. Had it not been so, there would have been a peaceful neighbourhood, just like Germany and France. A thriving democracy. The war of 1971 was inevitable. It was a part of our destiny, the destiny of Ghazi also.
The AIM of a battle is a closely guarded secret. It was laid down in the Principles of war, from ancient times. Even Chanakya propounded it in great detail. Chanakya, an erudite scholar, laid particular emphasis, to the concealment of the AIM, and the element of surprise, crucial to victory.
The Commanding Officer Cdr Khan(Name changed), openly declared on the Parade ground, in Karachi, ‘Inshah Allah, I will not return, till I sink Vikrant’. Our agents who were sweeping the parade ground, were recording the words to memory, they had good memory. The message duly reached the Operations Room of the Indian Navy. New Delhi.
The Chief of Naval Staff asked the question to the senior Commanders. ‘Do we have a plan to sink Ghazi?’
The formidable rotund Admiral Krishnan answered ‘ I have a plan, I shall tell you later.’
It was indeed a Master plan. A bold and a simple plan. Classic in concept. Yet it was a deadly plan. It was closely guarded. Classified ‘Top Secret’.
Enemy was not sleeping either, Pakistan had agents all over the place. Agents at the Taj Mahal Hotel, with Binoculars powerful enough to identify the bald Captain. Agents in fishing trawlers.
Admiral Krishnan’s master plan, was classic in thought, simple in execution. Cdr Khan lured by a dancing girl in a wet sari, Mandakini of Raj kapur’s Movie. It was an alluring dance.
The dance of Death at the mouth of Visakhapatnam Harbour, the night of Dec 02, 1971.
I was at INS Virbahu, when it happened. The massive explosion did not wake me up, but it did, to those who were on the Beach front. The shock wave was such. That it shattered the glass panes of the distant windows,
The fishermen collected the floating life jackets, they gave it to the Navy.
Admiral Krishnan declared ‘Ghazi had been sunk’. I was the custodian of the documents recovered from the sunken submarine. Piles of documents lay on the open terrace, outside Virbahu Wardroom. Wet, slimy with sea water. To be dried and classified.
As I was keen to check the Navigational Track Charts, there it lay, drawn in pencil, the position, the Patrol Box, outside Madras harbour, I saw a Brown paper bag, it was written ‘ VENKATESWARA CLOTH STORE. VISAKHAPATNAM.’
I picked it up, the incongruity suddenly drawn on me. How? Then it hit me like a rock. My God, how inside the sunken submarine. It could mean. Yes it could mean, an agent had indeed boarded the Submarine. Or, an Agent had disembarked from the Submarine, gone ashore for intelligence gathering, and come back.
It was not a simple shopping. The agent could not go around, wearing Karachi Tailored clothes. It was to confirm the movement of the girl in wet sari. Conflicting reports had come. It was for confirmation. It was confirmed. Yes, Vikrant was expected to enter harbour.
The Bulk Cargo Carrier, had been shifted to Anchorage, without completing the loading of the cargo. Base Victualing Yard had indeed placed orders of 50,000 eggs, mutton, fish and vegetables, etc. Only one ship could demand in such quantity, Vikrant.
There were no anti–submarine Ships at Naval Base, Visakhapatnam. There were no anti – submarine Nets at the entrance to Vizag. The type used during the Second World War.
Yes, there is no threat to Ghazi. Ghazi could enter at will. Ghazi did.
The girl in the wet sari, embraced him. It was a deadly embrace. Ghazi lay at the bottom of the sea, just at the door steps of Visakhapatnam.
Following excerpt has been taken from Commodore M V Suresh’s upcoming book, Mystic Kerala and Sinking of PNS Ghazi. It is exciting. There are 28 stories of Mystic Kerala.
Each story, haunting and fascinating. You can follow him on Facebook here.