Revisiting the history: Operation Dwarka-1965 and operational preparedness of Pakistan Navy
Dr. Maliha Zeba Khan
History is all about interpretation. It is always there to provide whatever is required to the reader or learner at that moment. It gives motivation, it boosts self-esteem and sense of pride, it defines historical phenomenon, as well as it provides a list of regrets and lessons learnt for the parties. All negative and positive aspects of history provide basis for states’ policies. There are events and decisions which could become permanent source of motivation and pride or even ignominy in the history of any nation. Yet the most difficult events of history to be analyzed are related with military… the wars or violent conflicts. Especially when wars between Pakistan and India are mentioned and studied academically, one can see difference of opinions and perspectives quite vividly.
Since Pakistan’s inception in 1947, there was visible discrepancy regarding the distribution of assets between Pakistan and India. Similar was the case with military share. It was quite discernible in Navy too. Pakistan Navy got a small share in form of 2 sloops, 4 fleet minesweepers, 4 harbour defence launches, 2 trawlers, 2 frigates (keeping in mind that those frigates were nowhere closer technologically to the modern frigates), and around 3600 personnel including 180 officers. Under the Western arrangements of SEATO and CENTO to contain Communism in 1950s, Pakistan got limited military assistance and purchase and supply of naval equipment was made possible too; yet limited. Nevertheless addition of a submarine (ex-US TENCH class) to Pakistan Naval Fleet in 1964 was a remarkable step which proved as major deterrent. This submarine was named as “Ghazi” which was only second in the Indian Ocean Region and soon became active for patrolling its waters.
As Pakistan and India have been locked into enmity since beginning; and India being larger and comparatively stronger on power matrix had already made security the primary concern for Pakistan. With such imbalance in power, Pakistan has been facing challenges and has performed rather better during tough times. The exemplary success of Operation Dwarka in the wake of 1965-Pakistan-India War was one such incident which became proud part of history of Pakistan. In the heat of war, Indian Navy was focusing mainly at West Pakistan which compelled Pakistan to ensure security of its maritime boundaries in the Arabian Sea as well as Sea Lines of Communication (SLOCs) for uninterrupted trade and commercial activities along with the inland water defence in the creek areas and estuaries of West and East Pakistan against potential Indian amphibious assaults. Essentially these were the tasks successfully being undertaken by Pakistan Navy with comparatively inferior logistics and naval technology than India. In those challenging days, Operation Dwarka emerged as symbol of perseverance and professional capabilities of Pakistan Navy despite all hurdles and naval power imbalance.
Dwarka is coastal city of Gujrat situated on north-western peninsula which has been quite significant for India, not only religiously and culturally but militarily too. There was the radar installation which was guiding Indian Air Force to launch attacks on important cities of Pakistan especially Karachi. The core objective of Operation Dwarka was multi-fold in effect as it was not only aimed at destruction of the radar but to provoke Indian warships stationed at erstwhile Bombay (now Mumbai) port to come to the Arabian Sea where Pakistani submarine “Ghazi” was prowling and waiting to engage those ships. That Operation was launched on 8th September, 1965 and it involved seven Pakistan Naval vessels while the submarine was waiting in the open sea. The bombardment on identified targets was completed in merely four minutes.
Operation Dwarka was not only a naval mission but it had different aspects too. It was beginning of the formal naval warfare between Pakistan and India with a roaring success of Pakistan Navy as preamble to future of naval developments. It acquired the objectives as success of the operation left India licking its wounds and no retaliatory air, naval or amphibious assault was undertaken by Indian forces on the coastline after that. The operation also proved a litmus test for operational preparedness, coordination, and precision of Pakistan Navy as it followed the given plan and achieved its targets including destruction of radar and other city installations, and it was instructed and made sure that no radio communication would be administered which was followed fully. Above all Operation Dwarka lowered the morale of Indian Navy significantly and even one Indian warship INS-Mysore which was stationed close-by at Cochin did not respond to the assault launched by Pakistan Navy.
The shining success of that operation wrote an incredible chapter in history of Pakistan and proved overture for further naval developments not only for Pakistan but at regional level too; it opened vistas as well as challenges in terms of competition in acquiring latest technologies to enhance naval capabilities including assault and navigation of maritime territories of the coastal states of the Indian Ocean. India denied the destruction of radar and its beacon or massive losses at other city installations, but it engraved serious imprints of humiliation for India which were unforgettable. Lately when in 1971 the submarine “Ghazi” was sunk near Vishakapatnam while mining the harbour and got struck by one of its own mines, India claimed that it was targeted by its Navy; but as matter of fact, Pakistan Navy’s sub-surface operational expertise has been un-shattered by Indian Navy in the later years and has provided Pakistan Navy with immense pride and grace.
Pakistan Navy commemorates 8th September as the day of its victory every year and honours its officers who participated in operation and brought that success to the country. Since Pakistan Navy has proved itself a responsible naval force in the Indian Ocean Region which has already been hosting several regional and extra regional navies, it has gained respect due to its effective role being played at different levels particularly “Blue Diplomacy”; as Pakistan Navy has been connected with other actors through performing assigned roles in the Task Forces 150, 151, and 152; providing training and operational assistance to other regional navies; and initiation of Regional Maritime Security Patrol (RMSP) since 2018. Pakistan believes in the freedom of seas as well as security of SLOCs from traditional and non-traditional threats and challenges, and Pakistan Navy has proved itself a credible “Guardian” of Pakistan’s vast maritime frontier. If Pakistan Navy was capable to launch a successful naval assault “Operation Dwarka” on enemy’s land with limited naval muscle in the year 1965, it definitely has acquired technology, improved operational capabilities, immaculate training standards, and heightened morale due to its naval stature within the world navies with the passage of time. Without any doubt Pakistan Navy is fully capable to defend its homeland against any threat or challenges of the contemporary era and its commitment to national and common security is highly appreciable.