It is against a soldier’s honour to abandon a fallen comrade. Captain Vikalp Sharma — now being dubbed Siachen’s own Rambo for his daring — understood this well.
Undeterred by Pakistani soldiers threatening to shoot him down, the 26-year-old paratrooper brazenly crossed the Actual Ground Position Line (AGPL) in Siachen on April 11 to try and rescue two air force pilots whose Cheetah chopper had crashed in Pakistani territory.
At a height of above 20,000 feet, Sharma and two other paratroopers risked their lives to rush across the AGPL within 45 minutes of the crash, much before the Pakistani Director General of Military Operations (DGMO), following a request from his Indian counterpart, directed his troops not to fire.
“We thought we could bring them (the pilots) back alive. I waved a white flag but the Pakistanis threatened to fire. Luckily they didn’t,” Sharma told HT. But the pilots had died and their bodies were recovered after a two-day search.
Sharma, from 17 Para Field Regiment, said it was the most challenging experience of his three-year military career.
Lieutenant General HS Panag, general officer commanding-in-chief, Northern Command, heaped praise on Sharma. “Initially the Pakistani troops had been rattled. But things went smoothly once they received the orders (from their DGMO),” he said.
Many Indian soldiers have shown grit on the Siachen Glacier, and in the Saltoro Ridge region. Among them are Subedar Bana Singh and Naib Subedar Tsering Murup — honoured with the PVC and Ashoka Chakra respectively.