(This was originally posted in TNN by Narayan Namboodiri)
Mumbai: Former Indian Navy admiral Vijai Singh Shekhawat (87) will be the chief guest at the commissioning of Scorpene-class submarine Karanj on March 10 after Kalvari-class submarine INS Karanj (S21) was decommissioned on August 1, 2003. INS Karanj was featured in the 2017 Bollywood film ‘The Ghazi Attack’, which was on men aboard S21 who survived underwater for 18 days. The latest Scorpene-class submarine is the third out of six that will add teeth to India’s Navy.
A defense official said the decommissioned Foxtrot-class submarine INS Karanj was present at the location, which forced the destroyed Pakistan submarine to move cautiously when she was reportedly destroyed in firing by INS Rajput. Indian Navy said on December 4, 1971, INS Rajput’s sonar room reported what sounded like a submarine changing depth, around half mile ahead. Capt Inder Singh ordered a sharp turn and immediately fired two depth charges. Less than a minute later a massive underwater explosion shook the destroyer.
INS Rajput then departed and proceeded to join up with the INS Vikrant battle group. After sunrise, local fishermen saw an oil slick and floating debris, including an unused submariner life vest labeled ‘USS DIABLO’.
Pakistan’s Navy said PNS Ghazi laid a small minefield east of Vishakapatnam harbor mouth on the night of December 2-3, 1971. At daybreak, it headed out deeper to search for the INS Vikrant battle group. Not finding it, PNS Ghazi returned at sunset to resume laying the minefield. As lights ashore were blacked out, PNS Ghazi may have misjudged her position and doubled back into her own minefield around midnight before the INS Rajput depth charging. Thus, it was the accidental detonation of its own mines that destroyed Ghazi and not INS Rajput’s depth charges.
Over the years, the mystery surrounding the sinking of PNS Ghazi has endured.
A defense spokesperson told TOI, “INS Karanj, under the command of V S Shekhawat played a key role in the 1971 war against Pakistan. In recognition of the valiant action of her officers and crew, many personnel was decorated after the war. ‘Ghazi Attack’ features Karanj and pays tribute to the valor of men onboard and their contribution during the 1971 war. Later, Karanj served as a trial platform for indigenously built ‘Rani’ and ‘Panchendriya’ sonar. After 34 years of glorious service, Karanj was decommissioned on August 1, 2003.”
Admiral Shekhawat is a former Chief of Naval Staff of Indian Navy. He was 14th Chief of Naval Staff and served as Navy chief from September 30, 1993, to September 30, 1996. Construction of the submarine began at Mazagon Dock Ltd (MDL) 10 years and five months back.