When Flight Lieutenant K Nachiketa was shot down during the 1999 Kargil operations and taken prisoner by the Pakistani Army before being dramatically released, many thought his flying days were over due to a spinal injury he sustained while ejecting from his MiG-27 fighter – but he has proved the sceptics wrong.

Today a squadron leader flying AN-32 transport aircraft, Nachiketa has been approved for promotion to wing commander.

The HT has more, here are some highlights:

Nachiketa is one the very few IAF pilots to have returned after their aircraft crashed in enemy territory. He was shot down on May 28, 1999, and held in captivity before being released a week later on June 4. He was later diagnosed with a back problem – a compression fracture – meaning he could never fly fighters again. However, after a series of remedial measures and retraining, he has been flying AN-24s since 2004 and is currently posted with the Chandigarh-based 48 Squadron.

What happened after he ejected?

About two to three hours after I ejected, I was ambushed and there was a fire fight. Regular Pakistani Army troops fired at me, I fired back. Eventually, I was captured because I was outnumbered. I had one pistol vis-à-vis five-six AK-56s.After about a two-hour halt at a place in the Batalik sector, I was taken by a helicopter to Skardu. After a night halt, I was shifted to Rawalpindi. I stayed there for four days. Thereafter a decision to release me was taken and I came back via the Wagah border.

Asked if he expected to come back after he was captured?

Absolutely not. As per our background, from 1971 what we have seen, no one generally comes back. The only thing I was planning from my side was escape. But that takes time. Initially, there is high security, then slowly there is dilution. Being released by Pakistan was a surprise.