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A sailor’s story: how India won 1971 war

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Days after the aged and iconic aircraft carrier INS Vikrant went physically under the hammer in a Mumbai ship-breaking yard, Bengaluru remembered the ship and one of the Navy’s 17-decorations war heroes associated with its most glorious moment.

If Vikrant played a lead role in December 1971 by blockading Pakistan in the Bay of Bengal, enabling Indian victory and the liberation of Bangladesh, its story is intricately linked with that of Vice-Admiral Nilakanta Krishnan, then Flag Officer Commanding, Eastern Naval Command, Visakhapatnam. His autobiography, A sailor’s story, published in 2011, documents first-hand the Navy’s war-winning feat in the East. At the launch of the book in Bangalore on Thursday, his son Arjun Krishnan said, “His strategy to lure [Pakistan’s deadly submarine] PNS Ghazi to the mouth of Visakhapatnam harbour and sink her on the first day of Pakistan’s attack on India on December 3, 1971 still ranks as one of the great sea-faring victories in Indian naval history.”

Starting his military career at age 16, Vice-Admiral Krishnan (1919-82) fought in pre- and post-Independence battles, in Europe and Asia, and in World War II. In 1961, he led the winning naval push that brought down the Portuguese flag and liberated Goa, Diu and Daman. He was one of the only two Indian soldiers to win the Distinguished Service Cross, Mr. Krishnan, his US-based son, said.

Back in 1971, the much-admired vice-admiral had to give up the prestigious Western Command posting at Mumbai for another senior officer and move to what was presumed to be the less challenging Eastern Command. Then came Pakistan’s strike, catapulting him and his command into the thick of action in the east.

His strategy won Vice-Admiral Krishnan the Padma Bhushan.

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