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Kargil war 20th anniversary: Tale of two IAF bravehearts

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New Delhi, July 25: On the 20th anniversary of the Kargil War, we proudly recall the valour of our armed forces and and salute those who lost their lives with moist eyes. The Kargil War would be remembered for many things, but most would be for treachery of Pakistan. During the winter of 1998-1999, Pakistani Armed Forces trained and sent troops, in the guise of mujahideen, into the Indian side of the LoC.

Kargil war 20th anniversary: Tale of two IAF bravehearts

India then had to launch a full offensive to drive out these infiltrators, in which we were successful but many brave hearts lost their lives. The Indian Air Force was also pressed into service.

'Cold blooded murder' of IAF pilot Ajay Ahuja:

We ought to recall what happened during 1999s Kargil conflict when Squadron Leader Ajay Ahuja's MiG-21MF fighter was hit by a Surface-to-Air missile FIM-92 Stinger.

Ahuja's aircraft had been within the Indian side of the Line of Control when he ejected. But he was captured by the Pakistani forces. A post-mortem examination conducted at the Srinagar Base Hospital claimed that Ahuja had landed safely after ejecting from his plane, but had been killed later by Pakistani soldiers.

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On 27th May, 1999, he was planned to lead a two aircraft mission for Photo reconnaissance of enemy positions in the Batalik Sector. As he was getting airborne he was informed that Flt Lt Nachiketa had ejected in the vicinity of Muntho Dhalo. Squadron Leader Ahuja immediately realized the necessity of locating and recovering the downed pilot. He changed his mission profile and set course towards Muntho Dhalo.

Despite being told that surface to air missile were being fired in the area, Squadron Leader Ahuja carried out orbits to try and pinpoint the location of the crashed aircraft and pilot. He sent his No.2 back to base but himself continued the search, ignoring the threat to his own life. By sheer perseverance, he was able to locate the possible crash site and transmitted this information to the rescue helicopters. Unfortunately, at this stage, his own aircraft was hit by a surface to air missile. With exemplary presence of mind and cool professionalism he attempted to nurse the air craft towards a safer area.

But when the aircraft engine flamed out Squadron Leader Ahuja had no choice but to eject. He ejected safely and had the presence of mind to transmit his last recorded ground position. On 28th May, 1999 the body of Squadron Leader Ahuja was handed over to Indian authorities.

The body bore two bullet injuries. It was reported that the left knee fracture was sustained when he parachuted down, but the gunshots show that he landed alive and was shot. And his death was called as a cold blooded murder. Squadron Leader Ahuja was conferred with Vir Chakra posthumously on August 15, 1999.

Flight lieutenant K Nachiketa's capture and then return:

During the 1999 Kargil War, flight lieutenant K Nachiketa, then 26 was flying a MIG-27. He was in charge of targeting Pakistan posts, but during the operation faced some technical difficulty. Due to this he had to eject. After landing on the ground, he initially was able to evade capture. However he was later surrounded by a Pakistani Army patrol, which finally captured him.

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He was in charge of targeting Pakistan posts, but during the operation faced some technical difficulty. Due to this he had to eject. After landing on the ground, he initially was able to evade capture. However he was later surrounded by a Pakistani Army patrol, which finally captured him. Following his capture, he remained in Pakistan custody for 8 days. He was first taken to an undisclosed location in the Batalik sector, following which he was moved by chopper to Skardu.

Following his capture, there were intense backdoor efforts made by the government to secure his release. He was finally handed over to the Red Cross, which brought him back to India. On his arrival he was greeted to a heroes welcome by the President and Prime Minister.

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