Standing ovation, claps and cheers are not witnessed every day in a flight. But this was how parents of Indian Air Force pilot Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman were welcomed on Friday morning when they took a flight from Chennai to Delhi on their way to receive their son. A video shot inside the Chennai-Delhi flight is being widely circulated on social media.
Wing Commander Abhinandan is likely to be freed by Pakistan at Attari-Wagah border in Punjab, two days after he was captured by the Pakistan Army. He had docked in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir after his aircraft fell down following an aerial dogfight with the Pakistan Air Force on Wednesday morning.
IAF pilot Abhinandan’s father Retired Air Marshal S Varthaman is a profoundly-decorated officer while his Shobha Varthaman is a doctor. Wing Commander Abhinandan comes from a family which has served Indian Air Force since World War II days when his grandfather Simhakutty was a member of the force.
Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on Thursday stated in a joint session of the National Assembly of Pakistan that Wing Commander Abhinandan would be released as “peace gesture”. This appears amid reports of mounting pressure on Pakistan to release the IAF pilot under Geneva Convention.
Wing Commander Abhinandan is apt to be freed at the joint check post at the Attari-Wagah border. Returning to a question about the “peace gesture” claimed by Pakistan, Air Vice Marshal RGK Kapoor on Friday evening said, “We see it as a gesture in consonance with the Geneva Conventions.”
The assistant chief of air staff also stated that Wing Commander Abhinandan was flying the MiG 21 Bison which shot down an F 16 Pakistan Air Force jet on Wednesday morning in the aerial combat that ensued after Pakistan violated Indian airspace and attempted to target military installations.
Pakistan has not confessed to having breached the Indian airspace and also kept mum on the use of F 16 jets in the PAF operation, which Imran Khan justified as a “retaliation by a sovereign nation” after striking by the IAF.
The IAF had aimed a terror camp at Balakot in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan. The terror camp was said to be the biggest training camp of Jaish-e-Mohammed, which claimed responsibility for the February 14 attack on CRPF killing 40 soldiers in Jammu and Kashmir’s Pulwama.