Born on 14 October 1950, in Pune, Maharashtra, 2nd Lt Arun Khetarpal came from a family with a long tradition of service in the Army. His great grandfather had served in the Sikh army and fought against the British at the battle of Chalianwala in 1848. His grandfather served in the British army during the first world war and Arun’s father, Brigardier M.L. Khetarpal, served in the Engineering corps till he retired from service.
After completing his initial education from Lawrence school, Sanawar, Arun joined the National Defence Academy (NDA) in 1967 and three years later went on to Indian Military Academy to complete his final phase of military training. He was commissioned in the 17 Poona Horse on 13 June 1971.
16 December 1971, the Squadron Commander of ‘B’ Squadron, the Poona Horse asked for reinforcement as the Pakistani Armour which was superior in strength, counter attacked at Jarpal, in the Shakargarh Sector. On hearing this transmission, 2nd Lieutenant Arun Khetarpal who was in ‘A’ Squadron, voluntarily moved along with his troop, to assist the other squadron.
En route, while crossing the Basantar River, Second Lieutenant Arun Khetarpal and his troop came under fire from enemy strong points and RCL gun nests that were still holding out. Time was at a premium and as critical situation was developing in the ‘B’ Squadron sector, Lieutenant Arun Khetarpal, threw caution to the winds and started attacking the impending enemy strong points by literally charging them, overrunning the defence works with his tanks and capturing the enemy infantry and weapon crew at pistol point.
When the commander of his troops was killed. Second Lieutenant Arun Khetarpal continued to attack relentlessly until all enemy opposition was overcome and he broke through towards the ‘B’ Squadron position, just in time to see the enemy tanks pulling back after their initial probing attack on this squadron. He was so carried away by the wild enthusiasm of battle and the impetus of his own headlong dash that he started chasing the withdrawing tanks and even managed to shoot and destroy one.
Soon thereafter, the enemy reformed with a squadron of armour for a second attack and this time they selected the sector held by Second Lieutenant Arun Khetarpal and two other tanks as the points for their main effort. A fierce tank fight ensured ten enemy tanks were hit and destroyed of which Second Lieutenant Arun Khetarpal was severely wounded. He was asked to abandon his tank but he realised that the enemy though badly decimated was continuing to advance in his sector of responsibility and if he abandoned his tank the enemy would break through, he gallanty fought on and destroyed another enemy tank, At this stage his tank received a second hit which resulted in the death of this gallant officer.
Second Lieutenant Arun Khetarpal was dead but he had, by his intrepid valour saved the day; the enemy was denied the breakthrough they were so desperately seeking. Not a single enemy tank got through. Second Lieutenant Arun
Khetarpal had shown the best qualities of leadership, tenacity of purpose and the will to close in with the enemy. This was an act of courage and self-sacrifice far beyond the call of duty.