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Invasion of Goa
Date 18 December 1961 – 19 December 1961
Location Portuguese India and surrounding sea and airspace
Result Decisive Indian victory and incorporation of territories into the Indian Union
Flag of Portugal.svg
Flag of India.svg
PortugalGovernor of Portuguese India Manuel António Vassalo e Silva India Major General K.P. Candeth
India Air Vice Marshal Elric Pinto
3,995 Army
200 Navy
1 frigate
Patrol Boats
3 patrol boats
45,000 infantry
1 Light Aircraft Carrier
1 destroyer
8 frigates
2 Cruisers
4 Minesweepers
20 Canberras
6 Vampires
6 Toofanis
6 Hunters
4 Mysteres
Casualties and losses
31 KIA
57 WIA
4668 POWs[1]
34 KIA
51 WIA

The Indian Annexation of Goa (also referred to as Invasion of Goa, the Liberation of Goa[2] and the Portuguese-Indian War), was an action by India's armed forces that ended Portuguese rule in its Indian enclaves in 1961. The armed action, codenamed Operation Vijay by Indian government, involved air, sea and land strikes for over 36 hours, and was a decisive victory for India, ending 451 years of Portuguese colonial rule in Goa. Thirty-four Indians and thirty-one Portuguese were killed in the fighting. The brief war drew a mixture of worldwide praise and condemnation. In India, the action was seen as a liberation of historically Indian territory, while Portugal viewed it as aggression against a long-held colonial possession.



Goa, Western India
A 1954 attempt by unarmed protesters to storm Goa and liberate it was suppressed by the Portuguese.
Foreign journalists attempt to rescue a protestor shot by Portuguese police officers during a rally demanding freedom in Panjim on the 18th of June 1946

Goa, Daman, Diu, and Dadra and Nagar Haveli had been Portuguese colonies since the 16th century. [3] [4] After having won independence from the British Empire in 1947, the Republic of India, under the leadership of Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru presented an ultimatum to the government of Portugal, led by dictator António de Oliveira Salazar, for the immediate and peaceful hand over of all colonial enclaves held by the Portuguese on the Indian subcontinent. [5] On, September 17, 1955, Nehru stated in Indian Parliament that reliance on peaceful methods to bring Goa into India "is not only a sound policy, but the only possible policy." [6]

Diplomatic efforts towards this goal by the Indian government failed, because Portugal asserted that the Estado da India was not a colony and was a part of metropolitan Portugal and hence its transfer was non-negotiable; and that the Indian Union had no rights to this territory since the Indian union did not exist at the time Goa came under Portuguese rule. [7]The positions of both governments were irreconcilable, leading to enmity between the two countries. India attempted to use its position in the Non-Aligned Movement to gain support for its demands, while Portugal, as a founding member of NATO attempted to seek support amongst Western nations, as well as with India's rivals, Pakistan and China.[8]

In Goa, a popular support had been built up against Portuguese rule by civil leaders like Ram Manohar Lohia who advocated the use of non-violent Gandhian techniques to oppose the government.[9] A major popular protest against rule on the 18th of June 1946 was suppressed by the Portuguese.[citation needed] Similarly, in 1954, the Portuguese used force to put down an attempt by non-violent Satyagrahi activists to march into Goa. A similar and simultaneous effort in Dadra and Nagar Haveli was successful, however, and it was incorporated into the Indian Union in 1962. [10] The Portuguese followed their actions up with a purge of supporters of independence, many of whom were jailed. This action led to the closure of the Indian consulate in the city of Panjim in Goa in 1955 and the imposition of economic sanctions against Portuguese-held territories.

In addition to non-violent protests, aggressive groups such as the Azad Gomantak Dal (The Free Goa Party) and the United Front of Goans conducted aggressive attacks aimed at weakening Portuguese rule in Goa.[11] These organisations – along with Indian volunteers – were also involved in the liberation of Dadra and Nagar Haveli from Portuguese rule in 1954.[12]

Commenting on the armed resistance, Capt. Carlos Azaredo (now retired General)stationed with the army in Goa states in Portuguese newspaper O Expresso: "To the contrary to what is being said, the most evolved guerilla warfare which our Armed Forces encountered was in Goa. I know what I’m talking about, because I also fought in Angola and in Guiné. In 1961 alone, until December, around 80 policemen died. The major part of the terrorists of Azad Gomantak Dal were not Goans. Many had fought in the British Army, under General Montgomery, against the Germans."[1]

In 1957, the Indian army deployed anti-aircraft batteries near the Daman and Diu airfields and threatened to shoot down any aircraft that strayed into Indian airspace whilst taking off or landing at the newly built airports at these locations.[13]

By October 1961, the decision was taken to use military force to oust the Portuguese from their Indian enclaves, and accordingly military resources were allocated for Operation Vijay.

Events preceding the hostilities


Attack on the Sabarmati

On 24 November 1961, the Sabarmati, a passenger boat passing between the Portuguese-held island of Anjidiv and the Indian port of Kochi, was fired upon by Portuguese ground troops, resulting in injuries to the chief engineer of the boat, as well as the death of a passenger. The action was precipitated by Portuguese fears that the boat carried a military landing team intent on storming the island. A Portuguese investigation into the matter revealed that the boat had also been fired upon a seven days earlier, when it accidentally strayed into Portuguese waters.[14] The incidents lent themselves to foster widespread public support in India for military action in Goa.

Indian military build-up

On receiving the go-ahead for military action and the mandate of the capture of all occupied territories for the Indian government, Lt. Gen. Chaudhari of India's Southern Army fielded the 17th Infantry Division and the 50th Parachute Brigade commanded by Major General K.P. Candeth. The assault on the enclave of Daman was assigned to the 1st Maratha Light Infantry while the operations in Diu were assigned to the 20th Rajput and 4th Madras battalions.[15] Meanwhile, the Commander in Chief of India's Western Air Command, Air Vice Marshal Erlic Pinto, was appointed as the commander of all air resources assigned to the operations in Goa. Air resources for the assault on Goa were concentrated in the bases at Pune and Sambra.[16]

The Indian navy deployed two warships—the INS Rajput, an 'R' Class destroyer, and the INS Kirpan, a Blackwood class anti-submarine frigate—off the coast of Goa. The actual attack on Goa was delegated to four task groups: a Surface Action Group comprising five ships: Mysore, Trishul, Betwa, Beas and Cauvery; a Carrier Group of five ships: Delhi, Kuthar, Kirpan, Khukri and Rajput centred around the light aircraft carrier Vikrant; a Mine Sweeping Group consisting of mine sweepers including Karwar, Kakinada, Cannonore and Bimilipatan and a Support Group which consisted of the Dharini.[17]

International efforts at peace

Portugal’s prime minister, Antonio de Oliveira Salazar, alarmed by India’s hinted threats at armed action against its presence in Goa, first asked the United Kingdom to mediate, then protested through Brazil and eventually asked the UN Security Council to intervene.[18] Meanwhile on 6 December, Mexico offered the Indian government its influence in Latin America to bring pressure on the Portuguese to relieve tensions.[19]

Meanwhile, India’s defence minister, Krishna Menon, and head of India’s UN delegation, stated in no uncertain terms that India had not “abjured the use of force” in Goa, and went on to link Goa to Angola, condemning Portugal’s anti decolonization policies in both cases.[18] Indian forces were, at the time, serving in Congo as part of a UN operation and had been involved in the fighting.[18]

American diplomatic initiatives to prevent an armed conflict in India had to balance its relationship with India, as well as its NATO alliance with Portugal, as well as dispel the idea that such initiatives were being made under pressure from the Portuguese government, while avoiding any NATO involvement in the issue. The U.S. government stopped short of suggesting self determination for the people of Goa, as this, they realized, would be needed to apply to all other Portuguese holdings worldwide, and would damage U.S.–Portugal relations.[20]

The American ambassador to India, John Kenneth Galbraith, requested the Indian government on several occasions to resolve the issue peacefully through mediation and consensus rather than armed conflict.[21][22] Indian prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru postponed the invasion of Goa and expressed his willingness to come to the negotiating table, on the condition that Portugal first announce its intentions to withdraw from Goa. This condition was however rejected by the Portuguese as contrary to the spirit of a negotiation.

President John F. Kennedy, in a message to Nehru, argued that if India used force against Goa, this, along with its military presence in Congo, would make an otherwise Gandhian nation look belligerent.

On 8 December, C.S. Jha, India's delegate at the United Nations Security Council, expressed India's disregard for international pressure by stating: "(The invasion of Goa) is a question of getting rid of the last vestiges of colonialism in India. That is a matter of faith with us. Whatever anyone else may think, Charter or no Charter, Council or no Council, that is our basic faith which we cannot afford to give up at any cost."[23]

On December 14, Acting UN Secretary-General U Thant addressed identical letters to Indian Prime Minister Nehru and Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Salazar. He urged them to "ensure that the situation does not deteriorate to the extent that it might constitute a threat to peace and security," and to enter into negotiations to seek a solution to the problem.[24]

Eventually, on 10 December, nine days prior to the invasion, Nehru stated to the press that “Continuance of Goa under Portuguese rule is an impossibility".[18] America’s response was to warn India that if and when India’s armed action in Goa was brought to the UN security council, it could expect no support from the U.S. delegation.[25]

The Portuguese Mandate

Portuguese Prime Minister António de Oliveira Salazar, sent the following message to Governor General Vassalo e Silva in Goa on 14 December, in which he ordered the Portuguese forces in Goa to fight till the last man.

Radio 816 / Lisbon 14-Dec.1961: You understand the bitterness with which I send you this message. It is horrible to think that this may mean total sacrifice, but I believe that sacrifice is the only way for us to keep up to the highest traditions and provide service to the future of the Nation. Do not expect the possibility of truce or of Portuguese prisoners, as there will be no surrender rendered because I feel that our soldiers and sailors can be either victorious or dead. These words could, by their seriousness, be directed only to a soldier of higher duties fully prepared to fulfill them. God will not allow you to be the last Governor of the State of India.

Portuguese military preparations

Portuguese military preparations began in the earnest in 1954 following the Indian economic blockade when three army battalions were transported to Goa, raising the Portuguese military presence there to 12,000 men. However, by late 1960 the under-secretary of the Army Staff, Lt Col Costa Gomes, conducted a survey visit to Goa and proposes a reduction in the military grouping reducing the strength from 12,000 men to around 3,500.[1]

In accordance with Prime Minister Salazar’s instructions to resist the Indian invasion, the Portuguese administration in Goa prepared for war.

One Portuguese Navy sloop, the NRP Afonso de Albuquerque,[26] was present in Goa at the time of invasion. The vessel was armed with four 120 mm guns capable of two shots per minute, and four automatic rapid firing guns.[17][27] In addition to the sloop, there were five merchant navy ships in Goa, as well as three light patrol boats (Lancha de Fiscalização) each armed with a 20mm Oerlikon gun.

Portuguese ground defences consisted of a total of 3,995 men, including infantry troops and 810 native soldiers, many of whom had little military training and were utilized primarily for security and anti-terrorist operations. In addition there were about 1,040 police officers and 400 border guards divided amongst the three Portuguese enclaves in India. The strategy employed to resist Indian invasion was centred around the Plano Sentinela which called for the concentration of all defences in the port town of Mormugao, and the Plano de Barragens which envisaged the demolishing of all bridges and links to delay the invading army, as well as the mining of approach roads and beaches. These plans were however inviable due to the desperate shortage of mines and ammunition.

Commenting on the Plano Sentinela, Capt. Carlos Azaredo who was stationed in Goa at the time of hostilities states in Portuguese newspaper O Expresso on 8 Dec 2001, "It was a totally unrealistic and unachievable plan, which was quite incomplete. It was based on exchange of ground with time. But, for this purpose, portable communication equipment was necessary".[1]

On the December 16, the Portuguese Air Force was placed on alert to transport ten tons of anti tank grenades in two DC6 aircraft from Monjito Air Base in Portugal to Goa assist in its defence. However the aircrafts were denied stop over facilities at the US Air Base at Weelhus in Libya. When the Portuguese Air Force was unable to obtain such facilities at any other air base along the way - most nations including Pakistan denying passage of Portuguese military aircraft - the mission was passed on to the civilian airline TAP which offered a Lockheed Constellation (registration CS-TLA) on charter for the job. However, when permission to transport weapons through Karachi was denied by the Pakistani Government, the Lockheed Constellation landed in Goa at 1800 hours on December 17 with a consignment of half a dozen bags of sausages as food supplies instead of the intended grenades.[28] However the aircraft also arrived with a contingent of female paratroopers to assist in the evacuation of Portuguese civilians.

The Portuguese air presence in Goa was thus limited to the presence of two transport aircraft, one belonging to the Portuguese international airline (TAP) and the other to the Goan airline Portuguese India airlines (TAIP): a Lockheed Constellation and a Douglas DC4 Skymaster aircraft. The Indians claimed that the Portuguese had a squadron of F-86 Sabres stationed at Dabolim Airport—which later turned out to be false intelligence. Air defence was limited to a few obsolete anti aircraft guns manned by two artillery units who had been smuggled into Goa disguised as soccer teams.[14]

On the December 14, the Portuguese administration in Goa receives orders from the Ministry for Overseas Affairs in Lisbon to transfer the relics of St. Francis Xavier, Patron saint of Goa, to Lisbon. Orders are also received ordering the Portuguese forces in Goa to destroy any buildings of non-military Portuguese heritage in Goa. Accordingly, barrels filled with petrol are transported to the Idalcao Palace in Pangim, which serves as the administrative headquarters, but are removed on orders from Governor Vassalo Da Silva who states "I cannot destroy the evidence of our greatness in the Orient".[1]

Portuguese civilian evacuation

The military buildup created panic amongst Europeans in Goa, who were desperate to evacuate their families before the commencement of hostilities. On 9 December, the vessel India arrived at Goa's Mormugao port en route to Lisbon from Timor. Despite orders from the Portuguese government in Lisbon not to allow anyone to embark on this vessel, the Governor General of Goa, Manuel Vassalo e Silva, allowed 700 Portuguese civilians of European origin to board the ship and flee Goa. The ship had had capacity for only 380 passengers, and was filled to its limits, with evacuees occupying even the ship's toilets.[14] On arranging this evacuation of women and children, Vassalo e Silva remarked to the press, "If necessary, we will die here." Evacuation of European civilians continued by air even after the commencement of Indian air strikes.[29]

Indian reconnaissance operations

Indian reconnaissance operations had commenced on 1 December, when two Indian Leopard class frigates, the INS Betwa and the INS Beas, undertook linear patrolling of the Goan coast at a distance of 8 miles (13 km). By 8 December, the Indian Air Force had commenced baiting missions and fly-bys to lure out Portuguese air defences and fighters, but to no avail.

On December 17, a tactical reccee flight conducted by Sqn Ldr I S Loughran in a Vampire NF.54 Night Fighter over Dabolim Airport in Goa was met with 5 rounds fired from a ground anti aircraft gun. The aircraft took evasive action by drastically dropping altitude and escaping out to sea. The anti aircraft gun was later recovered near the ATC building with a round jammed in its breach.[30]

The Indian light aircraft carrier INS Vikrant was deployed 75 miles (121 km) off the coast of Goa to head a possible amphibious operation on Goa, as well as to deter any foreign military intervention.


The air war

The mandate handed to Air Vice Marshal Erlic Pinto by the Indian Air Command was listed out as follows:

  1. The destruction of Goa’s lone airfield in Dabolim, without causing damage to the terminal building and other airport facilities.
  2. Destruction of the wireless station at Bambolim, Goa.
  3. Denial of airfields at Daman and Diu, which were, however, not to be attacked without prior permission.
  4. Support to advancing ground troops.

The Goa raids

A Canberra PR.9 taking off. The Indian Air Force used the small and lightweight Canberra bombers.

The first Indian raid was conducted on 18 December on the Dabolim Airfield and was in the form of 12 Canberra aircraft led by Wing Commander N.B. Menon. The raid resulted in the dropping of 63,000 pounds of explosives within minutes, rendering the runway unusable. In line with the mandate given by the Air Command, structures and facilities at the airfield were left undamaged.[31]

The second Indian raid was conducted on the same target by eight Canberra aircraft led by Wing Commander Surinder Singh, which again left the airport’s terminal and other buildings untouched.

Two transport aircraft - a Lockheed Constellation belonging to the Portuguese airline, TAP and a Douglas DC-4 Skymaster belonging to the Goan airline TAIP were parked on the apron.

A third Indian raid was carried out by six Hawker Hunters, and was targeted at the wireless station at Bambolim, which was successfully attacked with a combination of rockets and gun cannon ammunition.

On the night of the 18th December, the Portuguese used both aircraft to evacuate the families of some government and military officials in spite of the heavily damaged runway. During the first hours of the evening, airport workers hastily recovered part of the runway. The first aircraft to leave was the Lockheed Constellation commanded by Manuel Correia Reis which took off using only 700 metres; the debris from the runway damaged the fuselage with 25 holes and a flat tire. The second to leave was the TAIP DC-4 Skymaster, piloted by TAIP Director Major Solano de Almeida, both aircraft used the cover of night and a very low altitudes to break through Indian aerial patrols and escape to Karachi, Pakistan.[32]

The mandate to support ground troops was served by the No. 45 squadron of de Havilland Vampires which patrolled the sector but did not receive any requests into action. In an incident of friendly fire, two Vampires fired rockets into the positions of the 2nd Sikh Light Infantry injuring two soldiers, while elsewhere, an Indian Harvard was attacked by friendly ground troops and sustained nominal damage.

The Daman and Diu raids

In the Daman sector, Indian Mysteres flew 14 sorties, continuously harassing Portuguese artillery positions.

Ex-"Black Archers" Toofani (MD450 Ouragan) on display at the Indian Air Force Museum, Palam, New Delhi. The 1953 French-made Ouragans - also called Toofanis by the Indians - formed the backbone of the air strikes on Diu.

In the Diu Sector, air operations were entrusted to the Armaments Training Wing led by Wg Cdr Micky Blake. The first air attacks were made at dawn, December 18, by and were aimed at destroying Diu's fortifications facing the mainland. Throughout the rest of the day, the Air Force had at least two aircrafts in the air ant any time giving close support to advancing Indian infantry. During the morning, the air force attacked and destroyed Diu Airfield's ATC as well as parts of Diu Fort. On orders from Tactical Air Command located at Pune, a sortie of two Toofanis attacked and destroyed the airfield runway with 4 1000 lb Mk 9 bombs. A second sortied aimed at the runway and piloted by Wg Cdr Blake himself was aborted when Blake detected what he reported as people waving white flags. in subsequent sorties, the Indian Air Force attacked and destroyed the Portuguese ammunition dump as well a patrol boat that attempted to escape from Diu.

In the absence of any Portuguese air presence, Portuguese ground based anti-aircraft units attempted to offer resistance to the Indian raids, but were overwhelmed and quickly silenced, leaving complete air superiority to the Indians. Continued air attacks forced the Portuguese governor of Diu to surrender.

In later years, commentators have maintained that India's intense air strikes against the airfields were uncalled-for, since none of the targeted airports had any military capabilities and did not cater to any military aircraft. As such, the airfields were defenceless civilian targets.[32] To this day, the Indian navy continues to control the Dabolim Airport, although this is now used as a civilian airport as well.

The naval war

The storming of Anjidiv Island

The Indian Naval Command assigned the task of securing the island of Anjidiv to the INS Trishul and the INS Mysore. Under covering fire from the ships, Indian marines under the command of Lt. Arun Auditto stormed the island at 1425 hours on the 18th of December, and engaged the Portuguese defenders. The Portuguese ceased fire, and raised a white flag (it is claimed in some quarters that the "white flag" was in fact bedsheets drying in the windows, which the Indian army mistook for a white flag of surrender), thus luring the Indian marines out of their cover, before opening fire again. The Indian marines lost 7 killed and 19 wounded. Among the wounded were two officers. The Portuguese defences were eventually overpowered after a fierce barrage of shells from the Indian ships and the island was secured by the Indians at 1400 hours on the next day.

Naval battle at Mormugao harbour

On the morning of 18 December, the Portuguese sloop NRP Afonso de Albuquerque was anchored off Mormugao Harbour. Three Portuguese patrol boats were also present at Goa Daman and Diu. Besides engaging Indian naval units, the Afonso de Albuquerque was also tasked with providing a coastal artillery battery for the defence of the harbour and adjoining beaches, as well as providing vital radio communications with Lisbon after on-shore radio facilities had been destroyed in Indian air-strikes.

At 0900 hours, three Indian frigates led by the INS Betwa took up position off the Harbour, awaiting orders to attack the NRP Afonso and secure sea access to the port. At 1100 hours, the Indian Air Force raided the Mormugao harbour, strafing the area with bombs. [33] At 1200 hours, upon receiving its clearance from HQ, the INS Betwa, accompanied by the INS Beas entered the harbour and opened fire on the NRP Afonso with their 4.5-inch guns while transmitting requests to surrender in between shots in morse code. In response, the NRP Afonso lifted anchor, headed out towards the enemy and returned fire with its 120 mm guns.

Besides being outnumbered by the Indians, the Afonso was also at a severe disadvantage since it was in a confined position that restricted its maneuverability, and also because its four 120 mm guns were capable of a mere two rounds a minute, as compared to the 60 rounds per minute cadence of the guns aboard the Indian frigates. A few minutes into the exchange of fire, at 1215, the Afonso took a direct hit in its control tower, injuring its weapons officer. At 1225 hours, an anti-personnel Shrapnel bomb fired from an Indian vessel exploded directly over the ship, killing its radio officer and severely injuring its Commander, Captain António da Cunha Aragão, after which the First Officer Pinto da Cruz took command of the vessel. The ships propulsion system was also badly damaged in this attack. Indian naval artillery also hit the British merchant vessel "Ranger"[citation needed].

At 1235, the NRP Afonso swerved 180 degrees and was run aground against Bambolim beach. At that time, against the commander's orders, a white flag was hoisted under instructions from the segeant in charge of signals. But the flag coiled itself around the mast and as a result was not spotted by the Indians, who continued their barrage. The flag was immediately lowered.

Eventually at 1250 hours, after having fired nearly 400 rounds at the Indians, hitting two of the Indian vessels, and having taken severe damage, the order was given to initiate the abandonment of the ship. Under heavy fire, directed both at the ship as well as at the coast, non essential crew including weapons staff leave the ship and make their way to the shore. They are followed at 1310 hours by the rest of the crew, who along with their injured commander, disembarked directly onto the beach after setting fire to the ship. Following this, the commander was transferred by car to the hospital at Panjim.

In all the NRP Afonso suffered 5 dead and 13 men wounded in the battle. [34]

The sloop's crew formally surrendered with the remaining Portuguese forces on December 19 at 2030 hours. [35]

As a gesture of goodwill, the commanders of the INS Betwa and the INS Beas later visited Captain Aragão as he lay recuperating in bed at Panjim.

The Afonso - having been renamed as 'Sarasvati' by the Indian Navy - lay grounded at the beach near Dona Paula, until 1962 when it was towed to Bombay and sold for scrap. Parts of the ship were recovered and are on display at the Naval Museum in Bombay.[27]

The action at Diu

The Indian naval cruiser "New Delhi" was anchored off the coast of Diu and offered a continuous barrage of artillery at the Diu Fortress where the Portuguese were holed up. Commanding Officer of the Indian Air Force operating in the area reported that some of the shells fired from the New Delhi were bouncing off the beach and exploding on the Indian mainland. However no casualties were reported from this.[36]

At 0400 hours on the 18th of December, a Portuguese patrol boat Vega encountered the New Delhi around 12 miles (19 km) off the coast of Diu, and was attacked with heavy machine gun fire. Taking no casualties and minimal damage, the boat managed to withdraw to the port at Diu.

At 0700 hours, news was received that the Indian invasion had commenced, and the commander of the Vega, 2nd Lt Oliveira e Carmo was ordered to sail out and fight until the last round of ammunition. At 0730 hours the crew of the Vega spotted two Indian aircraft on patrol missions and opened fire on them with the ship's 20 mm gun. In retaliation the Indian aircraft attacked the Vega twice, killing the captain and the gunner and forcing the rest of the crew to abandon the boat and swim ashore, where they were later taken prisoner.

Action at Daman

Like the Vega in Diu, the patrol boat Antares at Daman under the command of 2nd Lt. Abreu Brito was ordered to sail out and fight the imminent Indian invasion. The boat stayed in position from 0700 hours on 18 December and remained a mute witness to repeated air strikes followed by ground invasion until 1920 hours when it lost all communications with land.

With all information pointing to total occupation of all Portuguese enclaves in India, Lt. Brito attempted to save his crew and boat by escaping to Karachi in Pakistan. The boat traversed 530 miles (850 km), escaping detection by Indian forces to arrive at Karachi at 2000 hours on 20 December.

The ground war

The target of the Indian ground attack in Goa was the securing of the capital town of Panjim as well as the harbour of Mormugao and the airport at Dabolim, and was a task assigned to the 17th Infantry Division under Major Gen. KP Candeth, and the 50 Para Brigade - one of the Indian army’s most elite airborne units - under Brigadier Sagat Singh.

The attack on Goa: the northern prong

Although the 50 Para Brigade - also called the Pegasus Brigade - was charged with merely assisting the main thrust conducted by the 17th Infantry, its units moved rapidly across minefields, roadblocks and four riverine obstacles to be the first to reach Panjim.[37]

On the morning of 18 December, the 50 Para Brigade moved into Goa in three columns.

  1. The eastern column comprised the 2nd Para Maratha advanced via the town of Ponda in central Goa.
  2. The central column consisting of the 1st Para Punjab advanced via the village of Banastari.
  3. The western column - the main thrust of the attack - comprised the 2nd Sikh Light Infantry as well as an armored division which crossed the border at 0630 hours in the morning and advanced along Tivim.

The western column, facing no resistance, reached the town of Betim at 1700 hours, just a 500 metre wide river crossing away from Panjim, the capital town. In the absence of orders, the units set camp at Betim and proceeded to secure areas up and down the riverfront.

Indian troops are greeted by crowds of Goans as they march through the streets of Panjim, shortly after the Portuguese retreat.

The order to cross the river was received on the morning of the 19th of December, upon which two rifle companies advanced on Panjim at 0730 hours and secured the town without facing any resistance. On orders from Brigadier Sagat Singh, the troops entering Panjim removed their steel helmets and donned the Parachute Regiment’s maroon berets. As the men marched into the town, they were welcomed as liberators by the locals.

The advance from the east

Meanwhile, in the east, the 63rd Indian Infantry Brigade advanced in two columns. The right column comprising the 2nd Bihar and the left column consisting of the 3rd Sikh linked up at the border town of Mollem and then advanced upon the town of Ponda taking separate routes. By night fall, the 2nd Bihar had reached the town of Candeapur, while the 3rd Sikh had reached Darbondara. Although neither column had encountered any resistance, their further progress was hampered because all bridges spanning the river had been destroyed.

The rear battalion comprised the 4th Sikh Infantry, which reached Candeapur in the small hours of the 19th of December, and not to be bogged down by the absence of the bridge, waded across the river in chest high water, to reach Margao - the administrative centre of Southern Goa - by 1200 hours. From here, the column advanced on the harbour of Mormugao. En route to this target, the column encountered armed resistance from a unit of the Portuguese Army at the village of Verna, where it was joined by the 2nd Bihar. The 500 strong Portuguese unit at Verna surrendered at 1530 hours after a fierce resistance, and the 4th Sikh then proceeded to Mormugao and Dabolim Airport, where the main body of the Portuguese army awaited the Indians.

A decoy attack was staged south of Margao by the 4th Rajput company to mislead the Portuguese. This column overcame minefields, roadblocks and demolished bridges, and eventually went on to help secure the town of Margao.

The expected defence of Mormugao never occurred, and the Portuguese troops holed up at the harbour surrendered without a fight in a formal ceremony at 2030 hours on December the 19th.

The attack on Daman

The advance on the enclave of Daman was conducted by the 1st Maratha Light Infantry in a pre dawn operation on the 18th of December. By 1700 hours, in the absence of any resistance, the Indians had managed to occupy most of the territory, with the exception of the airfield where the Portuguese were making their last stand.

The Indians assaulted the airfield the next morning upon which the Portuguese surrendered at 1100 hours without a fight. Approximately 600 Portuguese soldiers were taken prisoner.

The attack on Diu

Diu was attacked on 18 December from the north west along Kob Forte by two companies of the 20th Rajput and from the northeast along Amdepur by the Rajput B Company with the capture of the Diu Airfield being the primary objective.

These Indian Army units ignored requests from the Indian Air Force to attack only on first light when close air support would be available. Instead, attempts were made to cross a water channel separating them from the Portuguese forces under cover of dark on rafts made of bamboo cots tied to oil barrels. This attack was repulsed by around 125 or 130 Portuguese soldiers armed with small automatic weapons and inflicting fairly heavy losses.[36]

The assault was made afresh at dawn in the presence of air support. Whereas the 20th Rajput was bogged down in their assault by the well entrenched machine gun positions of the Portuguese, the B Company was able to advance under heavy artillery cover and take the town of Gogal. The constant barrage of artillery fire as well as continuous air strikes eventually led to the surrender of the Portuguese garrison later that day. In surrendering to three officers of the Indian Air Force, the Diu Governor informed them that he could have kept the Army out for a few weeks but he had no answer to the Air Force.

The Indians suffered 4 dead and 14 wounded, while the Portuguese suffered 10 dead and 2 wounded.

On 19 December, the 4th Madras C Company landed on the island of Panikot off Diu and accepted the surrender of a small troop of 13 Portuguese soldiers there.

Portuguese surrender

The Indian Chief of Army Staff, Gen. Pran Thapar (far right) with deposed Governor General of Portuguese India Manuel António Vassalo e Silva (seated centre) at a POW facility in Vasco Da Gama, Goa
Letter of surrender signed by Manuel António Vassalo e Silva to Kunhiraman Palat Candeth signifying the official surrender of Goa from Portuguese Rule

By the evening 19 December, most of Goa had been taken over by advancing Indian infantry forces, and a large party of more than two thousand Portuguese soldiers had taken position at the military base at Alparqueiros at hte entrance to the port town of Vasco Da Gama. Per the Portuguese strategy code named ‘Plano Sentinela’ the defending forces were to make their last stand at the harbour, holding out against the Indians until Portuguese naval reinforcements could arrive. Orders delivered from the Portuguese President called for a scorched earth policy - that Goa was to be destroyed before it was given up to the Indians.[38] Commentators have argued that Salazar wanted to sacrifice his troops in Goa, in order to attract international condemnation of India’s invasion of Goa.[citation needed]

Despite these orders, Governor General Manuel António Vassalo e Silva took stock of the numerical superiority of the Indian troops, as well as the food and ammunition supplies available to his forces and took the decision to offer surrender. He later described his orders to destroy Goa as "um sacrificio inútil" (a useless sacrifice).

In a communication to all Portuguese forces under his command, he stated, “Having considered the defence of the Peninsula of Mormugao… from aerial, naval and ground fire of the enemy and … having considered the difference between the forces and the resources… the situation does not allow myself to proceed with the fight without great sacrifice of the lives of the inhabitants of Vasco da Gama, I have decided with … my patriotism well present, to get in touch with the enemy … I order all my forces to cease-fire.”[39]

The official Portuguese surrender was conducted in a formal ceremony held at 2030 hours on the 19th of December when Governor General Manuel António Vassalo e Silva signed the instrument of surrender bringing to an end 451 years of Portuguese Rule in Goa. In all, 4668 personnel were taken prisoner by the Indians - a figure which included military and civilian personnel, Portuguese, Africans and Indians (Goans)[1]. This comprised 3412 prisoners in Goa, 853 in Daman and 403 in Diu.

Brigadier Sagat Singh of India's Maroon Beret Parachute regiment accepts the surrender of Portuguese forces at a military camp in Bambolim.

Portuguese non-combatants present in Goa at the time of the surrender - which included Mrs Vasalo D'Silva, wife of the Portuguese Governor General of Goa - were transported by December 29 to Bombay from where they were repatriated to Portugal. Manuel Vassalo, however remained along with approximately 3300 Portuguese combatants as POWs in Goa.

Upon the surrender of the Portuguese governor general, Goa, Daman and Diu was declared a federally administered Union Territory placed directly under the President of India, and Maj. Gen. K. P. Candeth was appointed as its military governor. The war had lasted two days. India lost 34 killed and 51 wounded. Portugal lost 31 killed, 57 wounded, and 4668 captured.

Those Indian forces who served within the disputed territories for 48 hours, or flew at least one operational sortie during the conflict, received a General Service Medal 1947 with the Goa 1961 bar.[40]

Portuguese actions post-hostilities

On 18 December, even as Indian forces were rolling into Goa, a special emergency session of the United Nations Security Council was convened at the request of the Portuguese Government. At the meeting, called to consider the Indian invasion of Portuguese territories in Goa, Daman and Diu, Adlai Stevenson, the US representative to the UN, criticized the Indian military action. He then submitted a draft resolution that called for a cease fire, a withdrawal of all Indian forces from Goa, and the resumption of negotiations.[41] This resolution was co-sponsored by France, UK and Turkey, but failed after the Soviet Union, India’s long time cold war ally, exercised its veto.

Upon receiving news of the fall of Goa, the Portuguese government formally severed all diplomatic links with India and refused to recognize the incorporation of the seized territories into the Indian Republic. An offer of Portuguese citizenship was instead made to all Goan natives who wished to emigrate to Portugal than remain under Indian rule. This was amended in 2006 to include only those who had been born before 19 December 1961. Later, in the show of defiance, Salazar's government placed a reward of US$10,000 for the capture of Brigadier Sagat Singh, the commander of the maroon berets of India’s parachute regiment who were the first troops to enter Panjim, Goa’s capital.[37][42]

Relations between India and Portugal thawed only in 1974, when, following a military coup d'état and the fall of the authoritarian corporatist rule in Lisbon, Goa was finally recognised as part of India, and steps were taken to re-establish diplomatic relations with India. In 1992, Portuguese President Mário Soares became the first Portuguese head of state to visit Goa after its annexation by India. This followed Indian President R. Venkataraman’s visit to Portugal in 1990.

Internship and repatriation of POWs

Following their surrender, the Portuguese soldiers were interned by the Indian Army at their own military camps at Navelim, Aguada, Ponda and Alparqueiros and were kept under harsh conditions which included sleeping on cement floors and hard manual labour.[14] By January 1962, most POWs had been transferred to the newly established detainees camp at Ponda where conditions were substantially better.[14]

In one incident, recounted by Lt. Francisco Cabral Couto (now retired general), an attempt was made on January 17, by some of the prisoners to escape the camp. The attempt was foiled, and the officers in charge of the escapees were threatened with court martial and execution by the Indians. This situation was defused by the timely intervention of a Jesuit military chaplain.[14]

The captivity lasted for six months "thanks to the stupid stubbornness of Lisbon". The Portuguese Government insisted that the POWs be repatriated by Portuguese aircraft - a demand that was rejected by the Indian Government who instead insisted on aircraft from a neutral country. The negotiations were delayed even further when Salazar ordered the detention of 1200 Indians in Mozambique allegedly as a bargaining chip in exchange for Portuguese POWs.[1]

By May 1962, most of the POWs had been repatriated—being first flown to Karachi, in chartered French aircraft, and then sent off to Lisbon by 3 ships: The Vera Cruz, The Pátria and The Moçambique. [43] On arrival at Tejo in Portugal, returning Portuguese servicemen were taken into custody by military police at gunpoint and without immediate access to their families who had arrived to receive them. Following intense questioning and interrogations, the officers were charged with direct insubordination on having refused to comply with directives not to surrender to the Indians. On 22 March 1963, the punishments were announced: 10 officers were expelled from the Armed forces with compulsory retirement for 5 and half a year's suspension from military service for 9.[1]

Ex- governor Manuel António Vassalo e Silva was greeted with a hostile reception when he returned to Portugal. He was subsequently court martialed for failing to follow orders, expelled from the military and was sent into exile. He returned to Portugal only in 1974, after the fall of the regime, and was given back his military status. He was later able to conduct a state visit to Goa, where he was given a warm reception.[44]

International reaction to the capture of Goa

"The casualties were minimum. I am in favour of all wars being like the war between India and Portugal -- peaceful and quickly over!" - J. K. Galbraith, former US ambassador to India[39]

United States of America

The United States' official reaction to the invasion of Goa was delivered by Adlai Stevenson in the UN Security Council, where he condemned the armed action of the Indian government and demanded that all Indian forces be unconditionally withdrawn from Goan soil.

To express its displeasure with the Indian action in Goa, the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee attempted, over the objections of President John F. Kennedy, to cut the 1962 foreign aid appropriation to India by 25 percent.[45]

Referring to the perception, especially in the West, that India had previously been lecturing the world about the virtues of nonviolence, US President Kennedy told the Indian ambassador to the US, “You spend the last fifteen years preaching morality to us, and then you go ahead and act the way any normal country would behave.... People are saying, the preacher has been caught coming out of the brothel.” [46]

In an article titled "India, The Aggressor", The New York Times on 19 December 1961, stated "With his invasion of Goa Prime Minister Nehru has done irreparable damage to India's good name and to the principles of international morality." [47]

Life International, in its issue dated 12 February 1962, carried an article titled "Symbolic pose by Goa's Governor" in which it expressed its vehement condemnation of the military action.

The world's initial outrage at pacifist India's resort to military violence for conquest has subsided into resigned disdain. And in Goa, a new Governor strikes a symbolic pose before portraits of men who had administered the prosperous Portuguese enclave for 451 years. He is K. P. Candeth, commanding India's 17th Infantry Division, and as the very model of a modern major general, he betrayed no sign that he is finding Goans less than happy about their "liberation". Goan girls refuse to dance with Indian officers. Goan shops have been stripped bare by luxury-hungry Indian soldiers, and Indian import restrictions prevent replacement. Even in India, doubts are heard. "India", said respected Chakravarti Rajagopalachari, leader of the Swatantra Party, "has totally lost the moral power to raise her voice against the use of military power"

Symbolic pose by Goa's Governor, Life International, February 12, 1962

Soviet Union

The head of state of Soviet Union, Leonid Brezhnev, who was touring India at the time of the war, made several speeches applauding the Indian action. In a farewell message, he urged Indians to ignore western indignation as it came "from those who are accustomed to strangle the peoples striving for independence... and from those who enrich themselves from colonialist plunder". Nikita Khrushchev, the de facto Soviet leader, telegraphed Nehru stating that there was "unanimous acclaim" from every Soviet citizen for "Friendly India". The USSR had earlier vetoed a UN security council resolution condemning the Indian invasion of Goa.[citation needed]


In an official statement, released long after the action in Goa, Peking stressed the support of the Chinese government for the struggle of the people of Asia, Africa and Latin America against "imperialist colonialism". China neither condemned nor applauded the invasion, despite Portuguese rule of Macau, as at the time, it was enjoying cordial relations with India, although the Sino-Indian War would begin only months later.[citation needed]


In a letter to the US President on 2 January 1962, the Pakistani President General Ayub Khan stated: “My Dear President, The forcible taking of Goa by India has demonstrated what we in Pakistan have never had any illusions about--that India would not hesitate to attack if it were in her interest to do so and if she felt that the other side was too weak to resist.”[citation needed]


Before the invasion the press speculated about international reaction to military action and recalled the recent charge by African nations that India was "too soft" on Portugal and was thus "dampening the enthusiasm of freedom fighters in other countries".[48] Many African nations - themselves former European colonies - reacted with delight to the capture of Goa by the Indians. Radio Ghana termed it as the “Liberation of Goa” and went on to state that the people of Ghana would “long for the day when our downtrodden brethren in Angola and other Portuguese territories in Africa are liberated. ” Adelino Gwambe, the leader of the Mozambique National Democratic Union stated: “We fully support the use of force against Portuguese butchers.”[48]

The Catholic Church

In December 1961, just days prior to the annexation of Goa by Indian troops, the Vatican appointed Dom José Pedro da Silva, a Portuguese priest as the auxiliary bishop of Goa, and granted him the right to succeed as the Patriarch of the Church in Goa. Although the Vatican did not voice its reaction to the annexation of Goa, it delayed the appointment of a native head of the Goan Church until the inauguration of the Second Vatican Council in Rome, when Msgr Francisco Xavier da Piedade Rebelo was consecrated as the Bishop of Goa. Simultaneously, the Church in Goa was placed under the patronage of the Cardinal of India and its links with the Church in Portugal were severed.[citation needed]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Azaredo, Carlos; Gabriel Figueiredo(translation) (8th Dec 2001). "Passage to India – 18th December 1961". Passage to India – 18th December 1961. Retrieved 20 February 2010. 
  2. ^ Use of Force p.36 para 2. Google Books.,M1. 
  3. ^
  4. ^ [1] "Portuguese Colonies." Europe, 1450 to 1789: Encyclopedia of the Early Modern World. 2004
  5. ^
  6. ^ [2] 'After Nehru, Who?' by Welles Hangen, HARCOURT, BRACE & WORLD, INC., 1963, Pg 92
  7. ^ [3] Lambert Mascarenhas, "Goa's Freedom Movement," excerpted from Henry Scholberg, Archana Ashok Kakodkar and Carmo Azevedo, Bibliography of Goa and the Portuguese in India New Delhi, Promilla (1982)
  8. ^ Comrades at odds: The United States and India, 1947-1964 By Andrew Jon Rotter Pg 185 [4]
  9. ^ Goa's Freedom Movement By: Lambert Mascarenhas
  10. ^
  11. ^ "A Liberation From Lies By Prabhakar Sinari". Retrieved 2009-11-09. 
  12. ^ [5] "A Liberation from Lies" by Prabhakar Sinari, Indian Express, 6 November 2003
  13. ^ "Dabolim and TAIP". Retrieved 2009-11-09. 
  14. ^ a b c d e f Remembering the Fall of Portuguese India in 1961
  15. ^ The Liberation of Goa by LN Subramanyam
  16. ^ The Liberation of Goa by Jagan Pillarisetti
  17. ^ a b The Liberation of Goa by Lieutenant Commander V.S. Kore
  18. ^ a b c d Comrades at Odds: The United States and India Page 185
  19. ^ US Department of State, Central Files, 753D.00/12 - 561. [6] Document 66,
  20. ^ US Department of State, NEA/SOA Files: Lot 64 D 240, Goa - Internal Memoranda. [7] Document 65, Item 10
  21. ^ US Department of State, Central Files, 753D.00/12 - 1161 [8] Document 68
  22. ^ US Department of State, Central Files, 753D.00/12 - 1261 [9] Document 69
  23. ^ U.N.S.C.O.R., 16th Session, 987th mtg. at 9, ¶40, U.N. Doc. S/PV. 987 (1961) quoted by Nathaniel Berman, "Legitimacy Through Defiance", page 10 [10]
  24. ^ Public Papers of the Secretaries-General of the United Nations, Vol. VI: U Thant, 1961 - 1964, p. 74 [11] Document 75
  25. ^ US Department of State, Central Files, 753D.00/12 - 1461 [12] Document 72
  26. ^ "Portuguese Navy 1875". Retrieved 2009-11-09. 
  27. ^ a b [13]
  28. ^ OS TRANSPORTES AÉREOS DA ÍNDIA PORTUGUESA (TAIP), Geographical Society of Lisbon By Major-General aviator (retd) José Krus Abecasis,
  29. ^ ""Intolerable" Goa", Time, 22 December 1961
  30. ^ Four Sorties Over Goa
  31. ^
  32. ^ a b "Dabolim and TAIP". Retrieved 2009-11-09. 
  33. ^
  34. ^
  35. ^
  36. ^ a b
  37. ^ a b BHARAT RAKSHAK MONITOR: Volume 4(3)
  38. ^ "The Church in Goa". Retrieved 2009-11-09. 
  39. ^ a b "Peaceful and quickly over". Retrieved 2009-11-09. 
  40. ^ General Service Medal
  41. ^ American Foreign Policy: Current Documents 1961, By U. S. Department of State, Historical Office Staff, Published by Ayer, ISBN 0405017952, 9780405017957, pages 956-960 [14]
  42. ^ "The Sunday Tribune - Books". 1999-07-04. Retrieved 2009-11-09. 
  43. ^
  44. ^ "Dossier Goa - A Recusa Do Sacrifício Inútil Summary". Retrieved 2009-11-09. 
  45. ^ "Changing Perceptions Of India In The U". Retrieved 2009-11-09. 
  46. ^ [15] India and the United States: Estranged Democracies, 1941-1991 By Dennis Kux Published by DIANE Publishing, 1993, ISBN 0788102796, 9780788102790, Page 198
  47. ^ [16] New York Times, Page 32, 19th December 1961
  48. ^ a b Comrades at odds: the United States ... - Google Books.,M1. Retrieved 2009-11-09. 


  • Rotter, Andrew Jon (2000). Comrades at Odds: The United States and India, 1947-1964. Cornell University Press. ISBN 080148460X. 
  • Couto, Francisco Cabral. Remembering the Fall of Portuguese India in 1961. ISBN 109728799535. Partial online version at GoaBooks2

External links


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