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The man who bombed Karachi tells his tale

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December 07, 2003 19:04 IST

A fleet of Indian Navy's missile boats silently made their way across the Arabian Sea on the night of December 4, 1971 to take position off the coast of Karachi, for what is called in contemporary history  'the biggest bloody bonfire in Asia'.

Back in the naval operations room, the officers were eager to hear the 'word', which meant the most to them.

When 'Angaar', the codeword for the successful mission was announced, it became clear that the fresh water port and citadel of Pakistan Army, Karachi, had fallen.

The meticulous planning and execution in one of the most famous battles of Indian Navy was headed by former Chief of Naval Staff Admiral (retd) S M Nanda, who had penned down these and his other experiences in his memoir The Man Who Bombed Karachi.

Nanda played a significant role in formulating pragmatic strategies with his team of professionals and devised effective tactics to neutralise the Pakistan Navy in the war for the liberation of Bangladesh.

Dedicating the book to the gallant men of the Indian Navy, Nanda said, "The memoir is very close to my heart. I have penned down my experiences not only as the CNS but more so as an Indian."

The successful Operation Trident was followed by Operation Python on the night of December 8.

The devastating attack carried out by missile boats sank Panamian vessel 'Gulf Star' while Pakistan Navy's 'Dacca' and the British ship 'SS Harmattan' were badly damaged.

The attack by the Indian Navy was so penetrating that the flames shooting into the sky were visible to the withdrawing forces for 60 nautical miles.

The Western Naval Command, living up to its reputation, had done the country proud by inflicting a huge defeat on Pakistan by destroying one-third of its fleet and bottling up its only viable port in the west.

Things really began to heat up between India and Pakistan from the month of August 1971 when it became clear that our neighbour would, sooner rather than later, try to divert our attention to the western coast from the serious crisis prevailing in the east.

The problems created by a massive influx of refugees into India had also started to cut into our resources, says the book.

On the eastern front, by December 10, virtually all sea and river traffic had been brought to a complete halt.

Between December 10 and 13, Indian Navy's aircraft carrier INS Vikrant managed to damage the Chittagong airfield at the intersection of two runways and sank three merchant ships and one Pakistan navy gunboat.

After 14 days of thrashing, the Pakistan Army had no option but to surrender, the book says.

An irony in Nanda's career as a sailor is that the place where he grew up and developed fascination for the sea -- Karachi -- would be the one he would bomb.

Manish Dhingra in New Delhi
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