March 2019 News

IAF Pilot Abhinandan Returns From Pak Via Wagah Border, Gets Hero's Welcome

1 March 2019
The Tribune
GS Paul

Attari: After an anxious wait stretching into hours, Wing Commander Abhinandan Vartha-man crossed into India from Pakistan via the Attari-Wagah border at 9.20 pm today. He was received by the BSF DIG, JS Oberoi, and other officials. 'It is good to be back in my country,' was Abhinandan's first reaction as he set his foot back on Indian soil. He landed in Delhi late at night and was given a rousing welcome at the Palam airport, from where he was taken to a medical facility for examination. Minutes after Abhinandan was handed over by Pakistan at the Attari-Wagah border, Air Vice Marshal RGK Kapoor told the media that the pilot would be taken for a medical examination. Wing Commander Abhinandan's MiG-21 was shot and he bailed out after bringing down Pakistan's F-16 fighter during a dogfight on Wednesday. He was in Pakistan's custody since then. Pakistan PM Imran Khan had announced on Thursday that Abhinandan would be released on Friday as a 'peace gesture'. The BSF today cancelled The Retreat at the Attari-Wagah joint check-post because of security concerns. The national flags of both countries were lowered in the evening, as per the ritual, but nobody was allowed inside the spectators' gallery. It is the sixth time that the ceremony has been disrupted. The ceremony was discontinued during the 1965 and 1971 India-Pakistan wars, in 1999 during the Kargil conflict, in 2014 after the blast at Wagah on the Pakistan side of the International Border and post-2016 surgical strikes by India. Hundreds of mediapersons at the Attari border and millions of Indians remained glued to TV sets and social media accounts through the day, awaiting the pilot's return. Made to record video statement: Lahore: The handing over of Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman was delayed as he was asked to record a statement on camera by Pakistani authorities before he was allowed to cross the border. It was not clear whether he was made to record the video under duress. At 8.30 pm (local time), Pakistan released the pilot's video message to the local media in which he said as to how he was captured. He said he entered Pakistan's space to 'find a target' but his aircraft was shot down. 'Army men saved me from the mob. Pakistani army is very professional,' he said, while criticising the Indian media. Pak describes wg cdr as 'prisoner of war': Islamabad: Pakistan's Foreign Office on Friday announced the returning of Indian Air Force Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman to India, but described him as a 'prisoner of war' (PoW). In a statement issued minutes after the pilot crossed over to India, the FO said, 'While in captivity, he was treated with dignity and in line with international law.' 'The captured IAF Wing Commander has been returned to India,' it said.