Colonel Narendra Kumar (retd), a former top mountaineer who played a crucial role in helping India secure the Siachen glacier, died on Thursday of an age-related illness at the Army’s Research and Referral Hospital. He was 87. He was the first to red-flag Pakistani military activity on the Siachen glacier.
The army launched Operation Meghdoot in April 1984 to secure the glacier by occupying key passes and ridges on the Saltoro Range on the basis of Kumar’s reconnaissance reports, officials said. Fondly known as ‘Bull’ in army circles for his tenacity, the highly decorated veteran was awarded the Padma Shri, Arjun award and the Kirti Chakra, India’s second-highest peace-time gallantry award.
“First to report on Pakistani mischief in Siachen sending patrol and mountaineering expeditions to the Glacier area. India was thus able pre-empt Pakistani attempt to occupy Saltoro Range ….Salute!” former army chief General VP Malik (retd) tweeted on Thursday.
Other veterans also took to Twitter to pay tribute to Colonel Kumar, with some calling him a legend.
“Absolute LEGEND! The one who raised the red flag on Pak’s evil designs on #Siachen Glacier. Was privileged 2bassociated with Col Kumar’s FIRST expedition to the glacier in 1978. We took out a casualty from the most important post, bang in the middle, aptly named KUMAR. RIP Sir,” Air Vice Marshal Manmohan Bahadur (retd) wrote on Twitter.
An alumnus of the Indian Military Academy, Dehradun, Colonel Kumar was commissioned into the Kumaon Regiment in 1953.
“A mountaineer par excellence, he was the first Indian to climb Mt Nanda Devi. He climbed Mt Everest in 1965, Mt Blanc (the highest peak in the Alps) and later Mt Kanchenjunga ( from the toughest NE spur). He climbed all these peaks despite losing four toes due to frost bite in earlier expeditions,” the officials said. He was also a member of the Antarctica Task Force in 1981.
If it was not for his expeditions to Siachen Glacier and Saltoro Range as commandant of the High Altitude Warfare School, Pakistan would have annexed the glacier, the officials said.