NEW DELHI: The sinking of Pakistani submarine Ghazi in the 1971 Indo-Pak war may have been one of the high points of India’s first-ever emphatic military victory but there are no records available with naval authorities on how the much-celebrated feat was pulled off.
As a debate rages over a TOI report on the destruction of all records of the 1971 Bangladesh war at the Eastern Army Command headquarters in Kolkata, it transpires that naval authorities also destroyed records of the sinking of Ghazi.
The troubling finding has been thrown up by a trail of communications among the naval brass. Pakistani submarine PNS Ghazi, regarded as a major threat to India’s plans to use its naval superiority, sank around midnight of December 3, 1971 off Visakhapatnam, killing all 92 on board in the initial days of the war between India and Pakistan. Indian Navy claims the submarine was destroyed by depth charges fired by its ship INS Rajput. Pakistani authorities say the submarine sank because of either an internal explosion or accidental blast of mines that the submarine itself was laying around Vizag harbour.
According to a set of naval communications made available to TOI by sources familiar with the Ghazi sinking, senior officers and those writing the official history of Navy exchanged a host of letters admitting to the fact that crucial documents of Ghazi were missing.
Immediately after Ghazi sank, Indian naval sailors had recovered several crucial documents and other items from the submarine, wreckage of which is still lying underwater off Vizag.
On June 22, 1998, Rear Admiral K Mohanrao, then chief of staff of Visakhapatnam-based Eastern Naval Command, told Vice Admiral G M Hiranandani, who was writing the official history of Navy, “All-out efforts were made to locate historical artifacts of Ghazi from various offices and organizations of this headquarters. However, regretfully, I was unable to lay my hands on many of the documents that I personally saw during my previous tenure.”
Mohanrao went on to tell Hiranandani, “We are still continuing to search for old files and as and when they are located, I will send appropriate documents for your project.” Mohanrao also refers to their inquiries with Commodore P S Bawa (retd), who worked with the Maritime Historical Society, to find out about the artifacts. Here also they drew a blank.
What Mohanrao’s letter does not disclose is the letter written by Bawa himself in 1980. On December 20, 1980, Bawa, then a commander with the Maritime Historical Society, said, “In Virbahu, to my horror I found that all Gazi papers and signals were destroyed this year. Nothing is now available there.” He was writing after a visit to Virbahu, the submarine centre at Vizag, where the documents, signals and other artifacts recovered from Ghazi were stored. His letter (MHS/23) was addressed to Vice Admiral M P Awati, the then chief of personnel at the naval headquarters.
Over the years, in the 1990s, as Vice Admiral Hiranandani sat down to write the official history of Navy, he made several efforts to get the Ghazi documents, records show. In one of his letters to the then chief of eastern naval command, Vice Admiral P S Das, he sought the track chart of the Ghazi, the official report of the diving operations on the Ghazi from December 1971 onwards and any other papers related to Ghazi. But none of it was available for the official historian of the Navy.
A retired Navy officer who saw action in 1971 said the destruction of the Ghazi papers and those of Army in Kolkata are all fitting into a larger trend, many of them suspected about Indian war history, of deliberate falsification in many instances. It is high time the real history of those past actions were revealed. “We have enough heroes,” he said. “In the fog of war, many myths and false heroes may have been created and many honest ones left unsung,” he admitted. TOI