History is a matter of interpretation. It is always there to provide whatever the reader or learner needs at that time. It gives motivation, it boosts self-esteem and it establishes a sense of pride. It defines the historical phenomenon, providing a list of regrets and lessons from which all parties can learn. The basis of a state’s policies is provided by the negative and positive aspects of history. There are many events and decisions that can become a permanent source of motivation and pride, even ignominy in the history of a nation. However, the most difficult events in history to analyze are all related to the military: wars and violent conflicts. One can clearly see the differences in opinions and perspectives, especially when the wars between Pakistan and India are mentioned and studied academically.
Since the establishment of Pakistan in 1947, there was a visible discrepancy regarding the distribution of assets between Pakistan and India. The same was true for the military, the difference being quite noticeable with the navy in particular. The Pakistan Navy got a small share in the form of 2 sloops, 4 fleet minesweepers, 4 harbor defense launches, 2 trawlers, 2 frigates (keep in mind that technologically these frigates were nowhere near modern frigates), and about 3600 people including 180 officers. Under the Western arrangements of SEATO and CENTO to contain communism in the 1950s, Pakistan obtained limited military assistance, making the purchase and supply of naval equipment possible, but quite limited. Nevertheless, the addition of a submarine (former US TENCH class) to Pakistan’s naval fleet in 1964 was a remarkable step which proved to be a major deterrent to any neighboring country contemplating an attack. This submarine was called “Ghazi”. It was only the second submarine in the entire Indian Ocean region and quickly became active patrolling its waters.
While Pakistan and India have been locked in enmity since the beginning of their establishment, India being bigger and comparatively stronger on the power matrix, security has naturally become Pakistan’s main concern. Despite such a power imbalance, Pakistan has performed quite exceptionally in all the challenges it has faced. The exemplary success of Operation Dwarka following the Pakistan-India War of 1965 was one such incident that has become a proud part of Pakistan’s history. At the height of the war, the Indian Navy was mainly focused on West Pakistan, which required Pakistan to secure its maritime borders in the Arabian Sea and Sea Lines of Communication (SLOC) for activities uninterrupted trade and commerce, as well as the defense of inland waters in the stream areas and estuaries of West and East Pakistan against possible Indian amphibious assault. Essentially, these are the tasks successfully undertaken by the Pakistan Navy, with comparatively inferior naval logistics and technology to India. In these difficult days, Operation Dwarka stood as a symbol of perseverance and showed the professional capabilities of the Pakistan Navy, despite all obstacles and naval power imbalances.
Dwarka is a coastal town of Gujrat, located on the northwestern peninsula, it has been very important for India – not only religiously and culturally, but also militarily. This is where the radar installation to guide the Indian Air Force to launch attacks on important cities in Pakistan, especially Karachi, took place. The main objective of Operation Dwarka was indeed multiple as it was not only aimed at the destruction of the said radar but to provoke the Indian warships stationed at the former port of Bombay (now Mumbai) to come in the Arabian Sea where the Pakistani submarine “Ghazi” was prowling, waiting to engage these ships. This operation was launched on September 8, 1965 and involved seven ships of the Pakistani Navy, while the submarine waited in open sea. The bombardment of the identified targets was completed in just four minutes.
Operation Dwarka was not just a naval mission, it had many different aspects. This was the start of the official naval war between Pakistan and India, with the resounding success of the Pakistan Navy as a prelude to future naval developments. He achieved his goals as the success of the operation left India to lick its wounds; no retaliatory air, naval or amphibious assaults were undertaken on the coastline by Indian forces thereafter. The operation also proved to be a litmus test for the operational readiness, coordination and accuracy of the Pakistan Navy, as it was a most successful mission: the given plan was fully followed and all targets were reached as indicated, despite no radio command. administered communication. Above all, Operation Dwarka drastically lowered the morale of the Indian Navy – to the point that even the Indian warship “INS-Mysore”, which was stationed nearby in Cochin, failed to respond to the assault launched by Pakistan Navy.
The brilliant success of this operation wrote an incredible chapter in the history of Pakistan and proved an opening for new naval developments, not only for Pakistan, but at the regional level in Asia. Although India denied the destruction of the radar and its beacon and other massive losses of urban facilities, the operation still left an unforgettable mark of humiliation for India. In 1971, “Ghazi” was struck by one of her own mines while working the port near Vishakapatnam, which caused her to sink. India claimed that this was the result of its navy targeting the submarine, but in reality, the Pakistani Navy’s submarine operational expertise was not broken by the Indian Navy, making it brought immense pride and grace.
The Pakistan Navy annually commemorates September 8 as its Victory Day and honors the officers who participated in this operation for bringing such success to the country. The Pakistan Navy has earned respect due to the effective roles it plays at different levels, especially in ‘blue diplomacy’. The Pakistan Navy has been connected to other players by playing assigned roles in Task Forces 150, 151 and 152; provide training and operational assistance to other regional navies; and participating in the establishment of the Regional Maritime Security Patrol (RMSP) since 2018.
Pakistan believes in the freedom of the seas, as well as the security of SLOCs against traditional and non-traditional threats and challenges. As such, the navy has proven to be a credible ‘guardian’ of Pakistan’s vast maritime border.
Undoubtedly, the Pakistan Navy is fully capable of defending its homeland against any threat or challenge of the contemporary era, and its commitment to national and common security is highly appreciable.
-Maliha Zeba Khan works as an assistant professor at the
Department of International Relations, NUML, Islamabad. She can be reached at: