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What Happened the Last Time an IAF Pilot Was Captured by Pakistan

Then a 26-year-old, Group Captain K Nachiketa was taken prisoner by the Pakistan Army on 27 May 1999.

Updated
India
2 min read
What Happened the Last Time an IAF Pilot Was Captured by Pakistan
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The Indian government, in a statement on Wednesday, 27 February confirmed that an IAF pilot was under Pakistan’s custody, amid escalating tensions between the two countries.

“It was made clear that Pakistan would be well advised to ensure that no harm comes to the Indian defence personnel in its custody. India also expects his immediate and safe return,” the MEA statement read.

The capture brings back memories of the Kargil war, the last time an Indian pilot was captured by the Pakistan Army.

Then a 26-year-old, Group Captain K Nachiketa was taken prisoner by the Pakistan Army on 27 May 1999 – following ejection from his MiG-27 aircraft that was suffering engine flame-out. He was reportedly serving in the No 9 Squadron.

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According to a The Telegraph report, when he landed, he realised that he was surrounded by Pakistani soldiers. The report said that Nachiketa, armed with just a handgun, failed to counter their assault. He was reportedly the only prisoner of the Kargil war.

What Happened After Nachiketa Was Captured

According to the newspaper, Nachiketa was captured by Pakistani soldiers and taken to Rawalpindi where he was allegedly tortured until a senior officer intervened.

“The jawans who had captured me were trying to manhandle me and maybe trying to kill me because, for them, I was just an enemy pilot who had fired on their locations from the air... Fortunately, the officer who came was very mature. He realised the situation that I am now a captive and now I need not be handled that way. So he was able to control them, which was a big effort because they were very aggressive at that stage.”
Nachiketa in an interview to NDTV in 2016

Pilot Released After 8 Days in Captivity

Meanwhile, India on the other hand, had started exerting international pressure on Pakistan for the release of the pilot, reported India Today.

Following pressure from the United Nations, Pakistan subsequently released Nachiketa eight days later on 3 June 1999. He was handed over to the International Committee of the Red Cross in Pakistan and returned home the next day via the Wagah border, the report said.

“It was very tough. I can’t describe that experience in words. That time I thought maybe death is a simpler solution. But I am thankful to God that destiny was on my side. I underwent severe mental and physical torture there for three-four days.”
Nachiketa in an interview to Hindustan Times in 2016

In 2000, the pilot was awarded the Vayu Sena Medal for his bravery.

(With inputs from India Today, Hindustan Times, NDTV and The Telegraph)

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