Colonel Narendra Kumar: The Brave Soldier Who Secured Siachen for India

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Colonel Narendra Kumar nicknamed The Bull got his title of bull on his thick and muscular neck. The nickname was given by his fellow cadets in National Defence Academy during his match with S.F. Rodrigues, who was senior to him. He lost the intense fight but the name stayed.

Later, Colonel Narendra Kumar did every possible thing which justified his name. He has fine senses regarding challenges and can see any challenge coming from far away. Colonel was the main reason why India was able to conquer Siachen.

Colonel Narendra Kumar
Colonel Narendra Kumar

In 1978, Colonel Narendra Kumar took a major expedition to the inhospitable glacier. He didn’t know that this expedition will make him a legend. Col. Kumar was in Kumaon regiment, he spent his time between the troops who are born and raised in such hilly terrain. He remembered the expedition as “The first major expedition into the unknown”. Colonel clarify the reason to launch the expedition “We had some reports that the Americans were showing Siachen as part of Pakistan in their adventure maps.”

Colonel Kumar planned the trip from the feet of the glacier, where it meets the water. From the snout of the glacier then trek up the 77 km of treacherous crevasses, mountains, passes and snow-covered peaks to reach the source. They were going blind without have any clue of their location and the peaks around, they were depending on the names of the peaks cited by the British which can’t be trusted. Colonel also mentioned the importance of the expedition and told the strategic importance of the glacier.  The glacier connected the Indian occupied territory by China after the war of 1962 and Pakistan Occupied Kashmir.

Colonel Kumar become the first Indian to climb upto Sia Kangri peak. They were climbing just with the help of ropes and basic equipments,“Our equipment wasn’t the best, we didn’t have any maps,” Colonel quoted. When the team reached the top, a Japanese mountain expedition facilitated by Pakistan Military shocked them, they continued their journey from peak to peak charting the territory for a further mission. The expedition was very successful and laid down the base for another expedition led by Colonel Kumar in which he lost his four toes to frostbite.

Colonel Narendra Kumar unknowingly and unwillingly sowed the seed of one of the most daring operations of India. On April 13, 1984, Operation Meghdoot was launched after intelligence input that Pakistan is trying to capture Siachen. Indian Air Force was deployed to deliver the breathing packages by challenging their flying machines to very new level. IAF started dropping soldiers at Bilafond La, which is now Siachen a base camp. It was like a game cause Pakistani’s were also scrambling their soldiers, so whoever reached the area first can claim its part and will be able to defend its area.

The Kumaon soldiers started their trek with the mission to secure two passes, the Sia La and Gyong La. Later ,Indian troops moved up the Saltoro ridge and battled with frozen hands against some resistance but conquered the glacier. To the west of the glacier were hostile Pakistani troops; on the east and to the north stood the Chinese. Had Col Kumar been given a clearance, he’d perhaps have climbed the Mount K2 in the Karakoram ranges as well. But to reach K2, he’d have had to traverse the Shaksgam valley, which the Pakistanis had illegally ceded to China. So, India halted it’s advance on reaching the northernmost tip of the Siachen glacier, settling in on its frozen waste.

Indian troops with tricolor after Operation Meghdoot.
Indian troops with tricolor after Operation Meghdoot.

Indian troops established several posts on the Glacier and the key camp was named Kumar Base, Colonel Narendra Kumar is the only living Indian Army officer to enjoy such honour. Indian claim to Siachen was confirmed and the combat in the white desert and the highest battlefield of the world had only just begun.

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