The ghazi attack in 1971 is to date shrouded in mystery and the subject of controversy as the Indian and Pakistani Government both had their versions. Fact is that the PNS Ghazi a Pakistani Navy vessel was damaged and sunk off the east coast of India somewhere between the 3rd and 9th of December 1971. The Bollywood movie the Ghazi Attack is based on this attack. We have pieced together our story of what really happened in The Ghazi Attack based on articles and other material of the incident available in the public domain.
In the end months of 1971, the Indian Navy's Eastern Naval Command had effectively applied a naval blockade isolating East-Pakistan's Bay of Bengal, trapping the Eastern Pakistan Navy and eight foreign merchant ships in their ports. The Pakistani Navy was thus under pressure from the government to deploy the aging PNS Ghazi, its only long range submarine to shore up operations in the Bay of Bengal area. Thus on 14 November 1971, PNS GHAZI, under the command of Cdr Zafar Mohammad Khan, fully loaded with mines and other warheads sailed out of harbor in Karachi on a reconnaissance patrol. According to subsequent reports in the International Navy gazette The Ghazi’s primary objective was to locate and destroy the Indian aircraft carrier, INS VIKRANT, which was operating in the Bay of Bengal area.
In his book ‘No Way But Surrender – An Account of the Indo Pakistan War in the Bay of Bengal 1971′, Vice Admiral N Krishnan, then Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief of the Eastern Naval Command, states:
“The problem of VIKRANT’s security was a serious one and brought forth several headaches. By very careful appreciation of the submarine threat, by analyzing data such as endurance, distance factors, base facilities, etc we had come to the definite conclusion that the enemy was bound to deploy the submarine GHAZI against us in the Bay of Bengal with the sole aim of destroying our aircraft carrier VIKRANT. Vikrant was vulnerable, of the four surface ships available, one had no anti-submarine detection device (sonar) and unless the other three were continually in close company with VIKRANT (within a radius of 5 to 10 miles), the carrier would be completely vulnerable to attack from the GHAZI which could take up her position surreptitiously and at leisure and await her opportunity.”
The Indian navy’s first lead as to the presence of The Ghazi in the Bay of Bengal came through the signal intercept of a message from the Ghazi to the Pakistani Navy HQ asking if a special kind of oil was available at the Pakistani Navy repair dock in Chittagong, Bangladesh. The ingredient only used in a particular submarines indicated to the Indian Navy intelligence the imminent deployment of the Ghazi in the Bay of Bengal in the vicinity of Vishakhapatnam India’s Eastern Naval headquarters.
The Navy high command reacting quickly in a covert operation shifted the location if INS Vikrant to the Andaman Islands, in parallel it planned a trap for the Pakistani submarine. In charge of the operation Vice Admiral N Krishnan himself.
The Indian Navy's Naval Intelligence laid a trap to sink the submarine by giving fake reports about the aircraft carrier being docked at Vishakhapatnam. Further Krishnan deployed the INS Magar an old British ship that in some ways resembled the INS Vikrant to sail out of Vishakhapatnam without lights and other betraying signals to bring out the PNS Ghazi from its underwater hiding.
The Ghazi submarine lying in wait spotted the Magar and mistaking it for the much larger Vikrant fired a torpedo and missed. To make things worse a miscalculation by the crew brought the submarine in the direct path of the Magar as it sailed out of the port. By the time the crew of the Ghazi ordered the ship to dive into the depths it was too late and the underbelly of the INS Magar grazed the Ghazi. Reports indicate that the crashing of the submarine on the sea bed along with the grazing bythe Magar damaged the sub. For hours that stretched into days the crew of the Ghazi tried in vain to restore the submarine to life, a task that was further restrained by the fact that 1000’s of miles from Pakistani shores they could not signal for help. Finally gasping for oxygen and energy the submarine surfaced on what reports claim was the night of the 3rd of December 1971.
The sonar radar on board the INS Rajput patrolling in the area reported the disturbance underwater, assuming it to be the wake of the PNS Ghazi they released two depth charges underwater. The subsequent explosion was twofold one form the depth charge and the other from the mines and torpedoes on board the PNS Ghazi. Locals reported an explosion that felt like an earthquake.
The Naval Head Quarters in Delhi issued a statement on the 9th of December 1971 after India had gone to war with Pakistan that the Pakistan Navy Submarine GHAZI had been sunk off the coast of Visakhapatnam by Indian ships on 3/4th of December.
Pakistan however never accepted the Indian Navy version preferring to claim that the submarine had exploded when it stepped on one of the mines it was laying in the sea close to Vishakhapatnam.
The sinking of Ghazi turned out to be a major blow and setback for Pakistan Naval operations in East-Pakistan. Indeed, had the Ghazi been able to damage the pride of the Indian Navy, INS Vikrant, India’s sole aircraft carrier at the time, the shock effect would have had its repercussions in the military establishment in Delhi.
The film the Attack on Ghazi is a fictionalized version of this epic Naval battle of the east coast of India in and around the Indo Pakistan war of 1971. It is Bollywood's first naval warfare film directed by Sankalp Reddy. Ghazi stars southern star Rana Duggabati in the lead role along with Taapsee Pannu of Pink fame, Kay Kay Menon,Atul Kulkarni and also features the late Om Puri in an important role.
The trailer of The Ghazi Attack opens up with the rich baritone of Amitabh Bachchan chronicling the history of war between India and Pakistan. Important to the act are Rana Daggubati who plays a lead role in the film that of Arjun Varma, an officer aboard Indian submarine S21, which intercepts Ghazi in the film. The other notable face in Ghazi is Kay Kay Menon's character who in the trailer speaks of a soldier's dilemma - of sticking to his superior's instructions or fighting for his motherland. And then there is Taapsee Pannu mouthing out helpless cries in Bengali, from the look of it playing a refugee from East Bengal in the film.
The Ghazi Attack treads the path of such Hollywood epics as The Hunt for Red October Crimson Tide and the Enemy below, all underwater War films with a submarine at the center of the plot. The official trailer of The Ghazi Attack has certainly created quite an impression in terms of its scale, production design and technical brilliance. We finally have an underwater war epic that looks and feels like one.
The film co-produced by Karan Johar’s Dharma Productions and AA Films. It is slated to release on 17 February 2017 so mark your calendars.