1971 Prisoner of War: AVM Pethia

?The basic difference between an ordinary man and a warrior is that a warrior takes everything as a challenge, while an ordinary man takes everything as a blessing or a curse.? Don Juan.

india Updated: Jan 01, 2006 23:14 IST

“The basic difference between an ordinary man and a warrior is that a warrior takes everything as a challenge, while an ordinary man takes everything as a blessing or a curse.” Don Juan.

Challenge can well be called Air Vice Marshal Aditya Vikram Pethia’s, middle name. Born on September 24, 1943 in Siankheda village in Gadarwara district of Madhya Pradesh in a family of zamindars, Pethia, son of an IAS, joined the Indian Air Force as a fighter pilot in 1964.

His first posting as Flight Squadron was at Kharagpur where he used to fly the old British Vampires Aircrafts. He then moved to Siliguri, where he used to fly French aircrafts. He was posted in the eastern sector during the 1965 war.
Later, he was posted at Adampur Air Force station in Punjab from where he was selected for a flying instructor’s course in 1970.

The 1971 war with Pakistan was a turning point in the life of AVM Pethia and twelve other Indian fighter pilots, whose planes were shot down and were taken as Prisoners of War (POW) in Pakistani jails.

Though Pethia’s nightmare lasted for five months, three days and eight hours to be precise, the memories and the torture at the hands of the enemies during his detention were enough to last for a lifetime.

Luckily Pethia was repatriated because of his grave injuries as a result of the torture. Back home doctors advised him against flying but here again his immense will power thrived and within months he went back to his first love, flying!

He was later posted as an instructor in Iraq from 1979 to 1981, where he saw the Iran- Iraq war from close quarters.
He has the honour of being the first commandant of the Basic Flying Training School. His last posting was as a Director General of Air Force Naval Housing Board.

Even though his service was full of crests and troughs, this man of steel says that if given a chance he would again join the Indian Air Force.

Pethia believes that the future wars will not be based on ammunition but on economy. According to him officers today have to be more diplomat than warriors. Emphasis should be given to IT, latest technology and man management.

He was married to Geeta in 1973 who has the rare distinction of representing India both in Basketball and Volleyball. His elder son is an Air Force officer like him while his younger son is a computer engineer in the US.

Presently AVM Pethia is settled in Bhopal and associated with the Purva Sainik Seva Parishad and also visits an orphanage and old age home.

First Published: Jan 01, 2006 23:14 IST