The 1965 war provides a great account of valour and bravery displayed by personnel of Pakistan Armed Forces. The robust air-ground coordination between Pakistan Army and Pakistan Air Force allowed success in key land operations. Meanwhile, Pakistan Navy also played a pivotal role in that war despite the limited opportunity for excessive involvement due to the fact that war was largely restricted to land terrain.

This article provides an overview of how the Pakistan Navy helped its sister forces in countering Indian designs against Pakistan. 

Traditionally described as ‘Silent Service’, Pakistan Navy during 1965 war made its presence felt against a larger Indian Navy with indomitable courage and defiant spirit. Following the breakout of war, the then Naval Chief Admiral Afzal Rahman Khan ordered all war units of Navy to assume defensive positions off the coast. ‘Ready-to-give-battle’ was the watchword which guided Pakistani naval flotilla which was tasked with four objectives – maintenance of normalcy in harbours, ensuring the safety of the merchant shipping, guarding sea lanes and foiling Indian attempts to disrupt Pakistan’s maritime-based commerce.  

Initially, Pakistan Navy maintained a defensive posture. However, the decision to adopt offensive outlook was taken after repeated sorties and raids by Indian Air Force started hindering operations of Pakistan Air Force. In this regard, Pakistan Navy deployed PNS Ghazi. It was tasked to gather intelligence on Indian naval movements that stalked the diverting threats posed by the aircraft carrier INS Vikrant.

Additionally, Pakistan Navy took the war to enemy waters. In this regard, the swift artillery operation raid by Navy in Dwarka demonstrated the professional acumen of Navy. Located about 200 miles south-west of Karachi, the fortress of Dwarka, with its powerful radar installations, kept a close eye on the movements of aircrafts’ flights and ships’ movements. The radars in Dwarka also served a secondary role of pre-empting a possible aerial or naval attack on Jamnagar and Bombay. The naval squadron involved in attacking Dwarka included four destroyers, one frigate, one cruiser, and one submarine.

The naval attack on the coastal city of Dwarka presented a number of security and economic challenges for the Indian government. The attack by the Pakistan Navy raised a concern that amphibious landing is possible in Indian coastal city. Additionally, some personnel of the Indian Army and Indian Air Force were diverted towards Kutch. The attack on Dwarka delayed the arrival of merchant ships coming to India from the United States and European countries via Suez Canal by 1-2 weeks and they were diverted to the Cape of Good Hope route. Former Indian Naval Chief Admiral Kohli in his book “We Dared” explained how Indian naval leadership felt ashamed over the loss of radar systems at Dwarka. The operation was described as daring and executed in classical fashion by a British author. 

During the course of the war, Pakistan Navy seized a large amount of enemy cargo, contraband goods and barges. A number of vessels including three big merchant ships (SS Jaira-Jendra and SS Sarsvati at Karachi and SS Sakeela at Chalna) were also nabbed. 

The whole process of the managing and disposal of enemy property was done according to the international law and all enemy personnel were treated professionally and in a courteous manner as demanded by 1949 Geneva Convention. 

In the 17-day war, Pakistan Navy remained on offensive mode and emerged victorious in its struggle against Indian Navy without any significant loss. 

In recent times, Pakistan Navy is gaining prominent importance due to changing security landscape in the region and growing emphasis on regional maritime security. Realizing its importance, Pakistan Navy is also adapting itself to the new realities and prepares itself for a more robust role in Pakistan’s security.