How Two R&AW Agents Helped Indian Navy to Destroy Karachi Harbour in 1971 War


It was a same old day in the R&AW offices with things happening very fast in the intelligence agencies.

Prior to 1971 war, Defence Minister Jagjivan Ram called R.N. Kao where Indian Navy Chief was also sitting. Kao was briefed on bit that there could be a war soon. He said, the clouds of war has been gathering, and the Indian navy has no intelligence at all of the nearby Karachi Harbour. The plan was to attack Karachi Harbour so that the enemy cannot harass any of our ship movement in Arabian Sea. The defence minister further told Kao that the Naval chief has information that new defences has been put to the guard the harbour. Kao was asked to get the full intelligence of the area. Kao as usual, promised to do his best and left.

R N Kao in the center

Kao called his number two K Sankaran Nair and told him about the requirement of Navy. Nair took the task and left. Nair called one of the R&AW officers in Bombay and assigned him the task.

A few days later, the R&AW officer from Bombay called Nair and briefed him about the plan. Nair then called the Rao, his naval assistant and Murty, the specialist from the photo laboratory of R&AW. The three of them flew to Bombay and met the R&AW officer who planned the operation. He told them that a Parsee doctor who sailed from Bombay to Kuwait and back via Karachi port was ready to help them. In return, they have to get him off the customs hook on which he was caught for trying to smuggle electronic goods on one of his voyages.

Nair at once called the collector of Customs, an old college mate of his. He fixed up with him to drop the case against the doctor by paying a heavy fine, with money from secret funds of R&AW. As soon as this was done, Nair met the doctor under his assumed name Cdr. Menon of the navy. It was arranged that two R&AW operatives Rao and Murty, their cover banes Rod and Moriarty respectively sailed two days later on the doctor’s ship.

It was decided that as soon as the ship will enter Karachi Harbour, the doctor will arrange for Rod and Moriarty to take their equipments and get admitted in the ship’s sick bay as patients. The photographic equipment was hid under the bed sheets.

Aerial view of Karachi Harbour

When the boat entered the Karachi Harbour, the Karachi CID personnel came on board and ordered the captain to bring all Indian passengers, with their passports. He checked all the passengers and kept their passports till the ship leaves the harbour the next day. However, he got angry when he saw that two passengers in the list were missing. The captain then told them that two were ill and were in sick bay. The CID personnel said that he will meet them there. The doctor told them that two passengers had chicken pox.

The pilot of the ship then took the ship between two cliffs of the entry point which guarded the narrow entrance to the harbour. Rod and Moriarty got busy in clicking pictures of the cliff side of the port. They clicked all pictures in sequential frames. All the fortifications and gun mountings were clicked. Next day, the other side of cliff was also photographed when the ship was sailing out of the harbour.

When the ship came to Arabian sea, it sailed to Kuwait. The two R&AW officers now have recovered miraculously  from Chicken Pox, got off the ship and booked a hotel. They went to Indian embassy in Kuwait and met the R&AW officers working there under cover and handed over the films which was sent by diplomatic pouch in Delhi. The two R&AW officers left for Delhi by plane.

The photo lab developed the films and they were a work of an expert. R. N. Kao then asked the Defence Minister to ready his war room and also told to call Indian Navy Chief to see the projection of films of Harbour. As Murty(real name) showed the films panel by panel on projection on a high projector, the naval chief and his aides where amazed and surprised to see the intelligence. The minister thanked Kao and he later thanked the two operatives for a fine operation.

After few months later, war broke out and Naval missiles blew the Karachi harbour and finished almost one half of the capability of Pakistani’s Navy.

Karachi Harbour on fire, 1971 December

There was a funny incident which followed this incident. When the Parsee doctor arrived in Delhi, he traced the Nair’s residence. When he reached his home and rang the bell, he asked for Cdr. Memon and he was told that it was the residence of Nair. He wasn’t satisfied so he went to the neighbours of his house and he was told that it was the house of Nair.

The doctor then went to the naval headquarters and stopped the board of Cdr. Menon. He barged in and seeing the officer there, shouted, “You are not Cdr Menon”. The officer said, “ofcourse not, Cdr. Menon is out of sea and I am officiating here at his desk. Now get out before I boot you out.” The doctor next called Gen Manekshaw’s office. The general rang up Kao and told him that his boys was playing some mischief with the doctor who was claiming a national award for his services to the nation(Doctor was looking for an award to take the men at Karachi Harbour). Manekshaw suggested that the Doctor’s mouth could be shut if some decent sum of money is given to him. Kao then rang up Nair and he told him that the doctor was already got off the customs hook and as well as given a lot of money already.

The incident is a true incident and was written by former R&AW officer R K Yadav in his book called Mission R&AW.