After 1965 Pakistan tried to keep pace with the Indian naval program, but the stoppage of US military aid and lack of foreign exchange prevented matching progress. But three Daphne class submarines were purchased from France on annual installments. Budgetary allocations for the purpose forbade refitting, modernization and replacement of the aging fleet. One cruiser, seven destroyers and the Ghazi had long outlived their usefulness. Three destroyers had to be demilitarized just before the war because of structural defects, and this had led to a sense of insecurity among the remaining ships’ companies.
This was further compounded by disaffection among its 38 per cent of Bengali officers and men. The unending drain of trained naval manpower to man newly activated gunboats in the riverine warfare in East Pakistan further affected the war potential of the Pakistan Navy. Far more serious gaps in Pakistan’s preparations existed however in the spheres of higher command, lack of facilities for maritime reconnaissance, the integration of air effort with naval operational plans, and in the fundamental concept of meeting the potential Indian threat.
The headquarters of the Pakistan Navy were located in Karachi to be close to its flotilla and the naval battle in the event of war. But it was so far removed from Islamabad, the seat of decision-making, that at times it was forgotten. Fazal Muqeem reveals that the aims of Pakistan’s naval plans were modest to suit the state of preparedness and the capability of equipment.
Fearful of these missile boats, as well as lack of trust in the battle-worthiness of its fleet, Pakistan opted to go on the defensive, with its naval units deployed in a semicircle around Karachi within the radius of action of shore based air force fighter cover.
The Pakistan Navy was expected to do no more than look after the seaward defence of Karachi harbor and escort merchant ships carrying strategic supplies. As a prerequisite, it was assumed that a warning of seven days would be given to enable the navy to redeploy and alert its units at sea. Since the Pakistani Navy lacked its own long-range strike element, it was presumed that air support would be forthcoming from land based strike aircraft, at least within a radius of 100 miles from Karachi.
The Pakistani assessment had also overestimated the potential of the missile boats India had acquired from the Soviet Union. The missile boat is a small, low freeboard vessel housing the launcher. It presents a low silhouette and is difficult to detect at long ranges, while its Styx-type missile has a lethal range of about 40 kilometres. The accuracy cf !::e missile is considerably improved by combined guidance and radar homing devices. The Russians had designed these boats primarily for seaward defence in a rather semi-static role. Their inherent motive power provided only a limited range of mobility for defence. It goes to the credit of Indian ingenuity that they were used offensively with telling effect.
Fearful of these missile boats, as well as lack of trust in the battle-worthiness of its fleet, Pakistan opted to go on the defensive, with its naval units deployed in a semicircle around Karachi within the radius of action of shore based air force fighter cover. The submarines were however deployed on offensive patrolling off the Bombay and Kathiawar seaports and other focal areas, ready to attack Indian shipping when ordered. This posture was adopted from the third week of November 1971 and was known to Indian intelligence. Admiral Nanda, as stated earlier, had insisted from the very beginning that, unlike 1965, the Navy should be brought into full play. Accordingly, he had been allotted three principal roles:
In India, an organization to coordinate merchant shipping in wartime did not exist and had to be built from scratch.
to protect Indian shipping and keep the sea lanes open for essential strategic traffic; to deny the use of the seas to Pakistan for naval and trade purposes by blockading both wings; and to undertake offensive forays on the coast of both wings for the maximum destruction of Pakistan’s naval strength and harbor facilities. Nanda started preparing for these roles with zealousness and characteristic drive.
In India, an organization to coordinate merchant shipping in wartime did not exist and had to be built from scratch. The pattern of shipping movement in and around Indian waters was studied over a period and analysed to ascertain schedules and routing. Problem areas of congestion were localized, and a concept evolved for naval deployment to provide direct and indirect protection to Indian shipping both in harbor and in approach lanes, and farther out on the high seas if possible.
Although protection was sought in maximum dispersal and diffusion on the high seas, congestion was inevitable on approach routes and in harbor areas, and these needed special protective measures. Pakistan was expected to attempt to deter foreign shipping from entering Indian waters, even by sinking a ship or two, and therefore Indian protective measures had to be so visibly assuring as to instill confidence in foreign shipping to go in and out of Indian ports with impunity.
The main problem was posed by heavy Indian shipping traffic to and from the Persian Gulf with its sea lanes running uncomfortably close to the Pakistan coast, thus giving favorable strategic environments to Pakistan.
The main problem was posed by heavy Indian shipping traffic to and from the Persian Gulf with its sea lanes running uncomfortably close to the Pakistan coast, thus giving favorable strategic environments to Pakistan. Towards the end of November, when hostilities appeared imminent, traffic to and from the Persian Gulf was spaced out to achieve maximum diffusion by mingling with ships of other nations. And as part of operational planning, the manoeuvring of the flotilla in the region was such that its action automatically provided indirect protection to the Gulf sea lanes.
An extensive publicity campaign was organized along the west coast to educate fishermen, sailors on coasters and air crew flying over the vulnerable area in recognizing Pakistani submarines in various profiles. They were asked to report immediately any suspicious movement in their waters to the ground organization established in the area for the purpose. It was likely that Pakistan intelligence got wind of these Indian preparations, and this might have deterred the Pakistani Navy from exploiting its submarine fleet as fully as technically and tactically feasible.
In the event, these measures provided effective to the extent that the daily docking average at Indian ports remained unaffected throughout the conflict. Control became effective much earlier, although an ordinance empowering the Indian Navy to control shipping in Indian waters came into force only in the last week of November. A premature enactment would have caused an unnecessary war scare.