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With excitement galore at the Wagah border, IAF Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman has reached the Wagah border. Sources say that he will be taken to Amritsar where IAF plane will fly him to Delhi. Today, after two days of captivity, Abhinandan is being welcomed by the country with open arms.
Amid the escalating tensions between India and Pakistan with a new turn of events reported almost every second, Pakistan PM Imran Khan had reiterated his peace stance towards India by announcing the release of captured Indian Air Force (IAF) Wing Commander Abhinandan on Thursday afternoon. Terming the step a ‘peace gesture’, the Pak PM declared in parliament that the captive Indian Wing Commander will be released from Pak army custody on Friday.
“That is all I am supposed to tell you,” Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman had said, wounded and blindfolded. He had not known where he was, he had not been sure whether he had been captured by the Pakistani Army. He had only revealed his name, religion and service number.
In a video of this conversation released by Pakistan, Abhinandan had not failed to maintain his composure. He had not faltered, had not looked afraid and had not panicked, despite not knowing what awaited him. Calmly, he had asked his interrogator whether he is with the Pakistani Army.
Today, the Attari Joint Check Post (JCP) saw scores of people gathered to receive Abhinandan, who is supposed to be released later in the day, reported The New Indian Express. People began coming in since as early as 6 AM, and the numbers kept swelling.
Abhinandan was in Cantontment town of Rawalpindi, and was expected to be taken to Lahore by air and then to the Wagah border by road. Under the guidelines of the Geneva Convention, it was likely that he will be handed over to the International Committee of Red Cross (ICRC) first, and then brought to the JCP where he can cross over to India.
Further, Abhinandan was lauded by Group Captain (retd) Kambampati Nachiketa, who was captured and held by Pakistan during the Kargil War in 1999. He was subjected to torture and later returned to his country.
“Abhi is a brave and courageous pilot with high professional ethos befitting an IAF air warrior and all of us are proud of him. He should be back soon and will take to the skies again to defend his Motherland whenever called for,” Nachiketa said, according to a report by The Times Of India.
Abhinandan’s parents took a late flight to Delhi from Chennai hours after his release was announced by Pakistan. Once inside the flight, they received a standing ovation from co-passengers.
Amidst cheering, clapping and passengers clicking photos, Air Marshal S Varthaman and Shobha Varthaman walked towards their seats. “Abhi”, their son, had made the country proud.
— The Indian Express (@IndianExpress) March 1, 2019
Abhinandan’s family has been serving the country for generations, reported NDTV. During World War II, his grandfather Simhakutty had served the nation in the Air Force. Including several other honours, his father is a recipient of a Param Vishisht Seva Medal. “Abhi is alive, not injured, sound in mind, just look at the way he talked so bravely… a true soldier… we are so proud of him,” he said.
Abhinandan was in pursuit of a Pakistani F-16 jet, engaging it with an R-73 air-to-air missile. Following the state-of-the-art Pakistani fighter being shot down, he was forced to eject and land into the Pakistani side of the Line of Control. There, he was captured by the Pakistani Army.
In one of the videos that were being circulated, Abhinandan could be seen being dragged. In another, he was blindfolded with his hands tied up, while being interrogated. However, Pakistan was accused of violating the Geneva Convention, following which the videos were taken off.
The Times Of India reported that before being captured, Abhinandan had swallowed a quarter of his secret documents and dumped several other papers in a nearby pond. After he was captured, they recovered a pink-coloured book on “Survival on Land”, a blue notebook and a map from the pond.
Indian Government said it was “Pakistan’s vulgar display of an injured personnel of the Indian Air Force in violation of all norms of International Humanitarian Law and the Geneva Convention.”
In the evening, a third video was released, where the pilot could be sipping tea, claiming he was treated well in Pakistan and that he would not change his statement once he goes back to India. He said he is impressed by the Pakistani Army’s behaviour and would expect his army to act similarly.
When he was asked which aircraft he was flying, he said, “I am sorry, Major. I am not supposed to tell you this but I am sure you have found the wreckage.”
What was his mission, he was asked. “I am sorry, I am not supposed to tell you this,” he replied.
After these photographs and videos were released, hashtags like #BringBackAbhinandan and #Abhinandanmyhero had taken the internet by storm.
Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman has made the entire country proud. He did not falter in the face of danger and took his stand until the very end. Despite being followed by the jaws of death, he kept his calm and talked with dignity. With people like Abhinandan, the country is bound to be a better place. The Logical Indian salutes Abhinandan for being an epitome of bravery.
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