Kargil Vijay Diwas 2023 (FPJ Exclusive): Brigadier Krishna Raj Nambiar Recalls Unforgettable Journey of Bravery

Kargil Vijay Diwas 2023 (FPJ Exclusive): Brigadier Krishna Raj Nambiar Recalls Unforgettable Journey of Bravery

'Unke Jahaz Aa Rahe Hain, Humare Kahan Hain': Kargil War veteran recalls his close call with Pakistan Army: 'I was lucky to serve in the war'

Priyanka ChandaniUpdated: Wednesday, July 26, 2023, 09:43 AM IST
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Brigadier Krishna Raj Nambiar (Retd) |

Brigadier Krishna Raj Nambiar (Retd), had spent only a decade in the Indian Army when he was called back from a training course to serve in the Kargil War in 1999. He was stationed in Jalandhar before he was told he would be leaving for Dras flying a Cheetah light helicopter. Then Captain Nambiar considered himself lucky to have been deployed in the war that the country was fighting after 28 years since the 1971 war with Pakistan.

“It's a privilege for a soldier to fight in a war and come back wrapped in tricolour. I had the privilege of serving at two operation postings — Kargil and Siachen,” said now retired Brigadier Nambiar, whose primary job as an aviator in the Indian Army during the war was to evacuate casualties and supply artillery. The memories of the Kargil war have been etched in the officer's mind. “Pakistan's intrusion was at a very large scale. The enemy probably thought that they could intrude on our territory and cut our lines of communication in Leh and Ladakh areas. But they missed realising two major aspects — one is the resolution that would be taken by the Indian government and the second is the resolve of the Indian military. The enemy never thought we Indians could do that,” recalled the war veteran. 

A full-fledged attack

In 1999, a conflict arose when approximately 5,000 Pakistani troops and militants infiltrated Indian territory. This infiltration was believed to have been orchestrated by the then Pakistan Army chief, General Pervez Musharraf, without the knowledge of Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. They occupied strategic positions in high-altitude areas along the Line of Control (LOC), which serves as the de facto border between India and Pakistan in the region. Tiger Hill, especially was a majestic mountainous feature at a height of 17,500 feet dominating observation that during the war interfered with the movement of troops and logistics taking place on the Srinagar-Leh Highway.

The intrusions aimed to cut off the crucial highway connecting Srinagar to Leh, posing a significant threat to India's security and access to Ladakh. Reacting swiftly, the Indian government launched 'Operation Vijay' on May 26, 1999, to evict the Pakistani forces and militants and reclaim the infiltrated areas. The Indian Army, supported by the Indian Air Force, demonstrated remarkable bravery in the face of challenging terrain and harsh weather conditions while pushing back the intruders from Pakistan.

“We were completely prepared for the war. We had the best war tactics in place. On the other hand, the enemy had comprehensively less strength; probably they thought the Indian military would not be able to reach the peak of the hill with small guns and motors. But what they didn't see was the military vehicles lined head to toe and bumper to bumper from Panikhar to Zojila Pass. The Kashmiri population was surprised to see the strength of the Indian army. I am sure, the relegated elements of terrorist groups would have conveyed the message that 'this is a losing battle right from the word go',” said the former aviator, whose service in Siachen Glacier, he said, helped him navigate the 1999 war as a pilot.

Seen the bullet flying

Brigadier Nambiar did several sorties of casualty evacuation, air shooting and taking deliveries of essential stores. One may think it is simple but, he said, when one goes into an infantry which is into an attack where an attack may go from one side and you have to give support from a different angle to take on the enemy to keep their heads down when our soldiers are moving up with rifles in hand, is a crucial job. “That's called a fire base. There are times when we used to deliver machine guns and heavy machine guns to places close to the fire bases where men could lift them and go to the base and establish the fire base and carry out the fire on to the enemy to keep their head down while the attack went on from another direction. These are the critical things we did,” recalled the officer. 

Among several other events, the brigadier recalled an instance when he was carrying out a casualty evacuation and soldiers on the hill were waving at him. He thought they were cheering him. However, later, he learned they were asking him to move away because the enemy was firing at the helicopter. “There was a very interesting conversation we intercepted from a radio signal where the enemy was calling back to their bases and saying, 'Inke jahaaz aa rahe hain, hamare yahan kyu nahi aa rahe' (Their aeroplanes are coming, why aren't ours coming). That was rather interesting. That was the time when reality dawned on the enemy truth that there's much more mettle in the adversary that they are facing. They knew that we were not going to stop till we got the entire area vacated. Slowly they understood and went back one by one when, I believe, their perseverance or courage, whichever ran out first,” expressed Brigadier Nambiar.

While the war was at its peak, literally and metaphorically, on the ground, the countrymen cheered these soldiers fighting for the nation. “It was a wonderful atmosphere in the whole country. When the war started I was going to my base in Jalandhar and all the people were cheering for any fauji they met. They were giving sweets and goodies to go and fight the battle with full rigour. People were collecting contributions for the army,” recalled Nambiar. 

Brigadier Krishna Raj Nambiar

Brigadier Krishna Raj Nambiar |

Nation above all

Twenty-Six years, the officer feels the pride to have served in the war and famously quotes Lord Macaulay, “To every man upon this earth death cometh soon or late. And how can man die better than facing fearful odds, for the ashes of his fathers, and the temples of his Gods.” He said, Every soldier believes that he is there to fight and if required, give supreme sacrifice for the nation. “We never thought we would lose because we knew our training was best and we have to do our duty. You are lucky if you come wrapped in a tricolour. It's an opportunity to go to serve in a war which many of us would not get from recruitment to retirement. I feel lucky to be a part of it. Thirty years of service and I look back and say, 'Yes I did see the bullet flying’, which is not the fortune of many soldiers who get into the service and live the life of a soldier without having a chance to fight a battle,” said the officer with pride, who has penchant for bikes and travels across the country on his Royal Enfield motorcycle.

Brigadier Krishna Raj Nambiar during 1999 Kargil War

Brigadier Krishna Raj Nambiar during 1999 Kargil War |

The Kargil War resulted in the tragic loss of more than 500 Indian soldiers, who sacrificed their lives in the line of duty. Each year, on Kargil Vijay Diwas, the nation comes together to honour and pay respect to these brave soldiers. 

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