The braveheart Indian Air Force (IAF) Wing Commander, Abhinandan Varthaman, returned back on Indian soil on March 01 through Attara-Wagah border. He expressed his happiness after returning to his motherland, confirmed Amritsar district commissioner, SS Dhillon. “He (Abhinandan) was happy to be back and smiling. He said that he was happy to be back to his country,” said Dhillon, while addressing media in Amritsar.
After spending three days and two nights under the custody of Pakistan’s army, the valiant hero of the nation returned back. Abhinandan was arrested by the Pakistan’s army on February 27 after he chased and shot down Pakistan’s F-16 fighter jet which made it’s evil intrusion to India’s side across Line of Control (LoC). In this aerial engagement, Abhinandan’s Mig-21 Bison got shot down and he successfully evicted himself from the plane and landed in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK).
People from all over the country had been waiting for the IAF pilot since morning at the Wagah-Attari border. They were continuously stuck in front of their TV sets keeping an eye on the news channels wanting to know whether the commander has arrived back on Indian soil. Reports at first stated that he will be arriving back at noon, then the handing over process was postponed to 2 pm while reports later claimed his arrival in India between 3 pm to 4 pm. Finally, the wait had come to an end when he crossed the Wagah border to step on Indian side at about 09:22 pm.
Pakistan’s prime minister, Imran Khan, had announced in the Pakistan’s parliament, on February 28, that Abhinandan will be released by his government as “a gesture of peace” on March 1.
However Air Vice Marshal, Ravi Kapoor, termed this as a gesture which is in consonance with the Geneva Conventions. “We are happy that our pilot who had fallen across the Line of Control and was in the custody of Pakistan is being released. We are extremely happy to have him back. We only see it as a gesture which is in consonance with the Geneva Conventions,” Air Vice Marshal, Ravi Kapoor, the assistant chief of Air Staff, said on Thursday.
The route of the return journey of the Wing Commander had started from Islamabad to Lahore and then Wagha-Attari border. He stepped on Indian side of the Wagah border and was taken to Amritsar airport and then finally he will be flown to Delhi in a special plane where his family was waiting for him. The Wing Commander was accompanied by the Indian High Commission Officials from Lahore to Wagha-Attari Border.
Hours after Pakistan announced it’s decision to release the Wing Commander, India conveyed to Islamabad that it wants him to be sent back via aerial route and not through the Wagah-Attari border. However, late on Thursday night, Pakistan communicated to India that he will be returned through the Attari-Wagah border only. The Indian defence establishment was also mulling over sending a special aircraft to Pakistan to bring back Wing Commander Varthaman.
Abhinandan was handed over to Indian Air Force officials in India, and then he was directly taken to Indian Air Force Intelligence Unit. The Air Vice Marshals, Ravi Kapoor and Sreekumar Prabhakaran were present at Wagha Border to receive the Wing Commader. The commander will have to undergo several medical tests to check his fitness levels. Scans will be conducted to check whether he has been bugged by Pakistani army, physiological tests will also be conducted as he was in Pakistan in their custody for two days, he might have undergone some sort of torture in order to illicit National Security secrets from him.
People from all over the country had gathered at Wagha Border in order to welcome the Wing commander. Citizens were expressing their joy by singing, dancing and exchanging sweets. The Wagah border was full of patriots expressing their patriotism waiting for the commander since morning. A special thanks giving prayer was also organised by the state Home Guards at Kalikambal Temple in Chennai ahead of Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman’s release by Pakistan.
Meanwhile, the Beating Retreat Ceremony which is held every day at the Attari-Wagah Border was cancelled to ease the pilot’s handover to Indian authorities, however, Pakistan did allow the Beating Retreat Ceremony to take place on its side. According to the reports, there were around 20,000 people expected at Attari-Wagah Border for the Beating Retreat Ceremony on Friday.