Indian Army personnel celebrate Indian victory at the end Battle of Basantar on top of a knocked out Pakistani Patton tank.
During the 1971 Indo-Pak war, 2nd Lt. Arun Khetarpal’s 17 Poona Horse was ordered to construct a bridge across Basantar river, in the Shakargarh region near the international border with the 47th Indian Infantry Brigade. After building it, engineers were to crack the enemy mine-field. Half-way through, the enemy raided. Even though the mine fields were partly cleared, the regiment advanced, not having considered what laid ahead. By the first light of December 16th, 1971, the army established a link-up at the bridge for the tanks to pass. At 8am, a Pakistani regiment, sufficiently armoured, confronted the Indian troops. Our troops being outnumbered, the Commander of the squadron requested assistance from 2nd Lt. Khetarpal, who was close to the battle-field.
As soon as the request was relayed, Kheterpal got into enemy’s neck to clean it all! On the way, he overran some strong points and captured many soldiers. During this, his group’s second tank was attacked and the commander was killed, leaving him alone fighting the Pakistanis.
But Kheterpal single-handedly went on to ambush the area with his tank. The tank battle followed and 2nd Lt. Khetarpal destroyed four tanks. The Pakistanis then wrecked the other two following tanks and also bombed his tank, flaming it up. Khetarpal, not giving it up, went on to destroy rest of the tanks; after which his own tank blew up. The fearless officer met his death refuting the enemy to step on his land.
When his tank was flamed up, the commander of his troop had ordered him to abandon the burning tank, but he proclaimed:
Official Portrait of 2nd Lt. Arun Khetarpal, PVC
The parade ground at the National Defence Academy is today named the Khetarpal Ground, and the auditorium and one of the main gates bear his name at the Indian Military Academy.