Pak hands over pilot Abhinandan to India at Wagah border

March 1, 2019
NEW DELHI: IAF's Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, who was captured by Pakistan army when he landed across the border after his MiG-21 went down in a dogfight with a Pak F-16 he chased in Wednesday's Pak military action, was handed over to Indian officials at the Wagah border on Friday evening as announced by Pak Prime Minister Imran Khan the previous day.

Pakistan was trying to target Indian military installations to avenge the Indian air force bombing of terror training camps inside that country on Tuesday. The Indian action was prompted by the allegedly Pak-sponsored terrorist attack on a CRPF convoy in Pulwama in Kashmir that killed 40 Indian jawans exactly twelve days earlier. Pak-based JeM had claimed responsibility for the Pulwama suicide attack.

Abhinandan received a hero's welcome at the Indo-Pak border. Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other leaders hailed the brave pilot who courageously faced his captivity in Pak army camp.

India had demanded his release as per the Geneva Convention and other international norms, and categorically told Pakistan it "would be well-advised to ensure that no harm comes to him." However, Imran Khan told the Pak parliament on Thursday that Abhinandan was being released as a "gesture of peace" initiative.

Tensions between the two countries had mounted after Indian fighters bombed Jaish-e-Mohammed's biggest terrorist training camp in Balakot inside Pakistan early Tuesday. The attack followed JeM claiming responsibility for the Pulwama suicide attack.

For honour of the Nation, you kept duty ahead of your personal safety. Wearing India Colours on your sleeve, you showed calm and poise in adversity. Abhinandan you created history and in you we find the best of the Indian Armed Forces. Bravo AirWarrior, more power to you, the Defence spokesperson tweeted

Welcome home Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman! India is proud of your courage and sense of duty, and above all your dignity. Wishing you and our entire Air Force every success in the future, President Ram Nath Kovind said.

Welcome Home Wing Commander Abhinandan! The nation is proud of your exemplary courage. Our armed forces are an inspiration for 130 crore Indians. Vande Mataram!, Modi said.

Videos of 38-year-old Abhinandan's interrogation had appeared on YouTube which were later taken down upon India's protest that these violated the Geneva Convention. He was seen blind-folded, bleeding and his hands tied behind.

It has been reported that after landing in Pak he fired in the air to keep back angry locals, jumped into a pond and destroyed documents by eating them.

Abhinandan's father was a retired senior officer in the Indian Air Force, Air Marshal S Varthaman (Retired), and mother Shobha Varthaman, who is a doctor, were cheered by passengers on their flight from Chennai to New Delhi on Thursday evening.

Earlier, in the Kargil war, Kambampati Nachiketa was taken into custody after his plane crashed and later released. He was tortured during his eight days of captivity.

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