The Pakistani submarine had been tasked with obstructing the Indian Navy
On December 3, 1971, the Indian Armed Forces joined up with Bangladeshi freedom fighters to ramp up the pressure on the Pakistan occupation army. However, a hidden menace lurking in the Bay of Bengal was stopping the mighty Indian Navy from providing effective assistance.
The PNS Ghazi was a Tench-class diesel-electric submarine, the first fast-attack submarine and flagship of the Pakistan Navy. She had been leased from the United States Navy in 1963 following negotiations between the Ayub regime and the Kennedy administration.
The underwater mines laid by the Ghazi off the Visakhapatnam harbor were proving to be a thorn in the side of the Indian aircraft carrier INS Vikrant. If the carrier could infiltrate the Bangladesh coast, it would significantly increase India’s capability to conduct airstrikes on the Pakistani occupation forces.
The joint forces of India and Bangladesh were wracking their brains on how to get past the insidious killer when they unexpectedly received excellent news on December 4: the Ghazi had sunk off the Visakhapatnam harbour.
The circumstances of how the Pakistani submarine sank remain shrouded in mystery. The Indian Navy credits the sinking of the Ghazi to its forces, while Pakistani military documents suggest it sank due to either an internal explosion or the accidental detonation of one of its own mines.
According to “Operation X: The Untold Story of India’s Covert Naval War in East Pakistan”, by MNR Samant and Sandeep Unnithan, a team of navy divers led by Lt Cdr Sajjan Kumar was probing reports of oil and flotsam from fishermen when they found the Ghazi. It was resting 60m below the surface on the seabed just two kilometres away from the harbour
There was a gaping hole in the front of the submarine, and the bodies of 93 crewmen were found inside.
Regardless of how the Ghazi sank, it offered Bangladesh’s Liberation Forces exactly the opportunity that they had been looking for. India and Bangladesh immediately launched an attack on the Pakistani occupation forces from land, sea and air.
According to the Indian Air Force, almost 50 tons of bombs were dropped within 12 hours on Pakistan airbases at Tejgaon and Kurmitola. Almost all of the Pakistani aircraft were destroyed.
A Pakistan army convoy of 90 vehicles was also destroyed in the airborne attack, as well as Pakistan steamers and launches loaded with Pakistan soldiers.
Meanwhile, the ground forces of India and Bangladesh marched towards Dhaka and encircled the capital, cutting off escape routes to Comilla, Chittagong, Sylhet, Natore, Rangpur and Jessore.
In addition, the 57th Mountain Division of the Indian army joined the Liberation Forces at the Akhaura battlefield. In the face of the combined assault, the Pakistani Forces in the area eventually surrendered.
Subadar Ashraf Ali Khan, Sipahi Amir Hossain, Lieutenant Badiuzzaman, Sipahi Ruhul Amin, Sipahi Sahab Uddin, and Sipahi Mustafizur Rahman were among the Bangladeshis martyred in the battle.
A few Pakistani soldiers managed to escape to Brahmanbaria after the battle, but 160 were killed.