New Delhi: Indian Armed Forces history is full of stories of brave men who saved the day for the country.
But a lesser known hero was Vice Admiral Nilakanta Krishnan whose master strategy saved aircraft carrier INS Vikrant, the pride of Indian Navy from Gazi, the US made submarine of Pakistan Navy in 1971 War.
Krishnan, the then Chief of Eastern Naval Command employed the ageing INS Rajput to give an impression to the Pakistanis that the Vikrant was berthed at Vizag harbour while in reality it was safe a thousand miles away in the Andamans.
With an objective to take Indian Forces by surprise even before the start of the war, on November 14th 1971, Pakistan dispatched its most lethal weapon, the attack submarine Ghazi to Chittagong in East Pakistan. It’s objective – to destroy INS Vikrant. On November 23, Ghazi had travelled over 2,200 nautical miles from Karachi to reach to patrol area codenamed Zone Mike – Madras.
Indian intelligence got whiff of this and informed the Eastern Naval Command about Ghazi’s advancement. The Vice-admiral had been asked to use INS Vikrant to blockade East Pakistan from receiving any naval assistance from Pakistan Navy. But a crack in the carrier’s boiler had reduced its speed to a meagre 16 knots and made it highly vulnerable to attack. Vice-admiral Krishnan realised this weakness and hence crafted a strategy to protect Vikrant from Ghazi.
Krishnan summoned Lt-Commander Inder Singh, Captain of the ageing INS Rajput which was being sent to Vizag to be decommissioned, and gave the ship and its Captain one last mission.
Krishnan instructed Inder Singh to sail 160 miles out of Vizag harbour and generate heavy wireless traffic, which would give enemy submarine an impression that INS Vikrant, its prime objective, was in close vicinity.
To further confuse the enemy, Krishnan ordered huge quantity of ration-meat and vegetables which made Pakistanis believe that the fleet was in harbour.
With Pakistanis ready to launch an offensive against INS Vikrant, Ghazi took this bait. Krishnan meanwhile had instructed INS Vikrant and her escorts to sail into ‘X Ray’, a secret palm fronded anchorage in Andaman Islands, nearly 1,000 miles away.
On December 3 war broke out, but the destiny had other plans for Ghazi. According to the Pakistani accounts, on midnight of December 3, an internal explosion tore through the forward section of Ghazi where torpedoes and mines were stored. Ghazi sank and Pakistan’s invulnerable warrior perished without taking any active part in the war.
Indian Navy however disagrees. According to Indian accounts, destroyer INS Rajput sunk the Ghazi using depth chargers.
The divers sent to look for the wreckage found bodies of six crewman. Three days later on December 6, the INS Vikrant, a wounded warrior launched several airstrikes on front installations of Pakistan forces in East Pakistan and played an instrumental role in sealing victory for India.
Vice-admiral Krishnan had saved the flagship and ensured an Indian victory. He passed away in 1982.