India’s first naval offensive and the man who headed it

About 50 years ago, on December 4, 1971, during the India-Pakistan war, when the Indian Air Force and Indian Army were mounting an offensive on the ground and in the air, a master plan was devised and carried out by the Indian Navy that became its first full-scale engagement after Independence. The victory on December 4 is celebrated as Navy Day.

The Indian Navy engaged in action against the Pakistan navy on the western front, the year in which hostilities started on the eastern front due to the Bangladesh Liberation War. Named Operation Trident, the plan of the Indian Navy was to block the Pakistani ports. India ended up inflicting heavy damage on Pakistani ships and the harbour of Karachi.

At the heart of this mission was Commodore K P Gopal Rao from Tamil Nadu. He was heading the Arnala class anti-submarine corvettes INS Kiltan and INS Katchall. Deputed at the eastern naval coast at the time, he was called to join the western fleet to head the task group that launched the attack on the Karachi port by the chief of naval staff Admiral S M Nanda.

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