Naval Operations in the 1960s saw the Indian Navy come into action in a major operational way. This decade saw a successful operation at Anjadip, contributing towards the liberation of Goa from the Portuguese. Nearly four years later naval aviation assets of the Indian Navy made a mark while deployed during the 1965 War.
Goa Liberation 1961
A liberation campaign arose in Portuguese occupied Goa as a mass movement. As early as January 1948, Indian Prime Minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru met the Portuguese consul and raised the issue of Goa’s integration into the Indian Union. Two years later the negotiations had made no headway. On 11 Jun 1953, the office of the Indian delegation in Lisbon was closed and diplomatic ties were formally severed.
The Indian Government attempted an economic blockade of Goa in 1955, but the blockade made no impact on the Portuguese Goan economy. In early Sep 1961 there was an escalation of tension, triggered by an unprovoked firing by the Portuguese, on Indian steam ship Sabarmati, off Anjadip island. In order to ensure Indian Naval presence in the area as a deterrent, two Indian Naval ships Rajput and Kirpan were deployed off the Karwar coast on 28 November 1961.
The Indian Navy launched Operation “Chutney” – a Surveillance and Patrolling exercise on 01 Dec 1961. IN Ships Betwa and Beas established a patrol off the Goan coast. The only Portuguese war vessel was the frigate, ‘Alfonso de Albuquerque,’ whose movements between Anjadip Island and Mormugao were reported.
Operation Vijay was initiated on 18 – 19 Dec 1961 wherein the Naval task force was to establish effective control of the seaward approaches to the Portuguese territories and capture Anjadip Island. It was also to neutralise the coastal batteries and sink Portuguese Naval vessels deployed in or off Goa harbour Indian warships were organised into two main groups, the Surface Action Group having Mysore, Trishul, Betwa, Beas and Cauvery;and the Carrier Task Group comprising Vikrant, Delhi, Kuthar, Kirpan, Khukri and Rajput. There was also a Mine Sweeping Group with Karwar, Kakinada, Cannonore and Bimilipatanam addition to a support ship Dharini.
The capture of Anjadip Island was important as Portuguese offensive actions had originated here. The assault was done by Naval landing parties, from Trishul with covering fire provided by Mysore. Despite opposing gunfire the landing led by Lieutenant Arun Auditto, was successfully undertaken at 1425 hours on 18 December 1961. Seven sailors paid the ultimate sacrifice while two officers and seventeen sailors were wounded. Lieutenant Arun Auditto who was decorated with the Nao Sena Medal (Gallantry). Lt Neol Kelman, in command of the second assault boat, was hit by a bullet which went through both thighs. He, made light of his wounds and continued to assist in the conduct of operations throughout the day, returning only after the National Flag was hoisted on the Island. Lt Nel Kelman was awarded the Kirti Chakra for his gallant action on Anjadip Island.
THE CAPTURE OF ANJADIP ISLAND WAS IMPORTANT AS PORTUGUESE OFFENSIVE ACTIONS HAD ORIGINATED HERE. THE ASSAULT WAS DONE BY NAVAL LANDING PARTIES, FROM TRISHUL WITH COVERING FIRE PROVIDED BY MYSORE. DESPITE OPPOSING GUNFIRE THE LANDING LED BY LIEUTENANT ARUN AUDITTO, WAS SUCCESSFULLY UNDERTAKEN AT 1425 HOURS ON 18 DECEMBER 1961. SEVEN SAILORS PAID THE ULTIMATE SACRIFICE WHILE TWO OFFICERS AND SEVENTEEN SAILORS WERE WOUNDED.
Betwa was ordered to capture the Portuguese frigate Albuquerque, anchored at Mormugao. Betwa closed Albuquerque and commenced firing with her 4.5″ guns. Soon, Albuquerque raised a white flag and beached herself off Dona Paula jetty.
NAVAL AIR SUPPORT – 1965 INDO PAKISTAN WAR
In 1965, Pakistan President FieldMarshal Ayub Khan conceived an aggressive, ambitious plan, comprising three phased operations, namely Op Desert Hawk, Op Gibraltar and Op Grand Slam. The first phase, Operation Desert Hawk, was to be launched in early 1965, as a probing encounter to claim territory in the Rann of Kutch, where the international boundary had not been demarcated. The second phase, Operation Gibraltar was to commence in early August 1965 to invade and occupy the Kashmir valley with the help of specially raised irregular forces, trained to undertake guerrilla and sabotage activities. Thereafter, towards end of August, it was planned to launch a major conventional operation, Operation Grandslam, which would be a large scale attack across the Indo-Pak boundary in Chamb-Jurian area, to capture Akhnoor, isolate Rajauri and Poonch and severe the road link to Kashmir valley. Thus, Pakistan hoped to alter the status quo on Kashmir permanently by the end of 1965.
The Government of India had informed Naval Headquarters that the role of the Indian Navy would be a defensive one. It was categorically ordered that “the Navy is not to operate north of the latitude of Porbandar, and is not to initiate offensive action at sea unless forced to do so by offensive action by the Pak forces”. It was within this restrictive bubble that the Indian Navy had to operate once hostilities commenced.
In early 1965, the Indian Fleet had undertaken a series of exercises off Mumbai and Kochi, including exercises with the Army. The Fleet ships had also undertaken an operational deployment in the Persian Gulf. On return to Indian waters, trouble broke out in Kutch, as Pakistan’s Op Desert Hawk unfolded and the ships were redeployed for exercise off Saurashtra coast. INS Vikrant, which was scheduled for a refit, was ordered to postpone the refit and redeploy off Saurashtra Coast. However, after the first ceasefire on 01 July, the Fleet was recalled and various ships including Virkrant were slotted for refit as planned. The war clouds had dissipated. With the carrier in refit, the aircraft embarked onboard Vikrant were disembarked and rebased ashore, initially at Goa.
On 01 September 65, the Pakistan Army crossed the International Border (IB) and advanced towards Akhnoor. By then, INAS 300, the Seahawk squadron, had already moved to AF Station Jamnagar for an armament and weapons work up which had been previously planned. Now the Alize squadron was moved to Mumbai for reconnaissance and anti-submarine patrols. On 03 September, all Seahawks were placed under the operational control of the Western Air Command for better utilisation. As the squadron was already undergoing an armament work up it served to boost the combat readiness of the pilots.
Whilst land forces were engaged in a fierce battle across the plains of Punjab, the Seahawks were tasked to prepare for an airstrike on the high-power radar installation at PAF Station Badin, around 120 miles from Jamnagar. On 05 Sep, the Seahawks came to immediate state of readiness and the strike was scheduled to be launched at dawn on 07 September. The Indian pilots were gearing up for action – the first time they were expected to meet their enemy in the skies.
On the evening of 06 Sep, three Pakistani B57 Canberra bombers attacked Jamnagar airbase, causing some damage to IAF aircraft, the ATC tower and the runway. By sheer luck, the Seahawks escaped unscathed. Consequently, the Badin airstrike was cancelled and all Seahawks were withdrawn from Jamnagar to Mumbai. The air defence of the city, which was originally the responsibility of the Air Force, was entrusted to the Navy because the Air Force had become fully committed to the air battles in the North.
On the night of 7/8 September 65, Pakistan Navy carried out an audacious but futile seaward attack on the holy town of Dwarka. To thwart further such incursions by the Pak flotilla, the Indian Fleet (as it was known at the time) was deployed off Saurashtra, under the command of Rear Admiral (later Vice Admiral) BA Samson. It was decided that two Alizes would be staged from Jamnagar to carryout searches North of Porbandar and Sea Hawks to be available at Jamnagar for launching air strikes on Pakistani ships.
The Alizes launched sustained search operations from Jamnagar throughout commencing 2000 Hrs on the evening of 11 September 65. In the first sortie itself, the Alize picked a number of surface contacts confirming the presence of two groups of Pakistani ships only 50 nm west of Okha and soon made a detailed report on the disposition of the contacts to the flagship, INS Mysore. The Fleet started closing in on the reported position. On 12 Sep 65, at about 0300 hrs, second Alize took off from Jamnagar, established wireless contact with the flagship and after carrying out search, reported a few surface contacts about 90 nm north of the Fleet, but was unable to investigate further due to limited endurance. A third Alize sortie was immediately airborne at 0400 hrs and searched the area, without success. It was ascertained that the Pakistani warships had retreated northwards by this time.
The overwhelming opinion at the national-strategic level, in 1965, the Navy’s role has to be seen in the backdrop of the unambiguous directives received by the Navy from the political leadership, which sought to limit the scope of military engagement through all the three phases of Pakistan’s challenge. Mr. Y B Chavan, the then Raksha Mantri, referring the Naval Operations in 1965 war later stated, “I greatly appreciate the silent but efficient role which the Navy played in the defence of the country. I take this opportunity to emphasise again that the Navy has done and achieved all that was desired of it, within the bounds and compass allotted to it.”