Vice Admiral Nilakanta Krishnan (1919 – 1982) was the most decorated officer in the Indian Navy with over 40 years of distinguished service career and 17 medals to his credit. Vice Admiral Krishnan has been a part of many pre and post independence operations his role in the war of 1971, has etched his name in the pages of history in golden letters.
Vice Admiral Krishnan was born the youngest son of Rao Bahadur Mahadeva Nilakanta Ayyar, who worked as an executive engineer. His eldest brother had gone into the line of Indian Civil Services while Vice Admiral Krishnan had a different passion. He joined the Royal Indian Navy at the age of 16. On the 1st of September. 1940, he was appointed the Sub-Lieutenant of the Royal Indian Navy. Through the length of his military career, he engaged in pre and post-independence battles, in Europe and Asia. In 1961, he led the naval push that brought down the Portuguese flag and liberated Goa, Diu, and Daman.
INDO-PAK WAR OF 1971:
During the Indo-Pak War of 1971, Vice Admiral Krishnan was serving as the Chief of Eastern Naval Command. It was during this war that he carried out what many consider “of the great sea-faring victories in Indian naval history.”
Before the onset of the war, Pakistani troops had the intentions to surprise Indian Forces. On the 14th of November, 1971, Pakistan dispatched one of its deadliest weapons, the assault submarine Ghazi. With the aim of annihilating the INS Vikrant, they sent it to Chittagong in East Pakistan. By 23rd November, Ghazi had gone more than 2,200 nautical miles from Karachi to reach to watch range code-named Zone Mike in Madras. The Indian Forces received intelligence about this advancement and immediately informed the Eastern Naval Command. The Vice-naval commander had been requested that INS Vikrant was to prevent the troops in East Pakistan from getting any maritime help from the Pakistan Navy. However, due to some technical problems, the INS Vikrant’s pace had reduced to a mere 16 ties and making it impossible for it to thwart any imminent attacks.
Vice Admiral Krishnan was aware of this difficulty and had to make a strategy to shield their otherwise defenceless vessel. The subsequent plan he came up with was ingenious and would set a staggering record in naval history for years to come. He summoned the captain of the maturing INS Rajput, Lt-Commander Inder Singh. His ship was at the time being sent to Vizag to be decommissioned. That is until Vice Admiral Krishnan gave him a monumental task. He instructed Singh to cruise 160 miles out of Vizag harbour and create substantial remote movement, which would give foe submarine a feeling that INS Vikrant, its prime goal, was in the close region. To confuse the enemy further, he requested an enormous amount of meat and vegetables. He then ordered INS Vikrant and her escorts to cruise into ‘X-Ray’, a mystery palm-fronded safe haven in the Andaman Islands, almost 1,000 miles away.
Pakistani fell for the trap and prepared to dispatch Ghazi against INS Vikrant. In the late hours of 3rd December, reports indicated an inward blast occurred in the forward area of the Ghazi where torpedoes and mines were kept. Subsequently, Ghazi, one of Pakistan’s greatest weapons sank, inflicting no damage on the Indian vessel.For his remarkable strategy, he was awarded the Padma Bhushan. Admiral Krishnan retired from the Indian Navy in 1976. He was one of the only two Indians who were awarded the Distinguished Service Cross. He received the award in 1942 for “courage, enterprise and devotion to duty in operations in the Persian Gulf”. He also received the Param Vishisht Seva Medal (PVSM) which is awarded in recognition of peace-time service of the most exceptional order. He met his natural death in January 1982.