After a suspenseful wait lasting hours, Indian Air Force pilot Abhinandan Varthaman finally returned home on Friday night from his nearly three-day captivity in Pakistan. The Wing CDR emerged at 9.10 p.m at the Wagah check-post on the Pakistani side, accompanied by Pakistani rangers, the Indian air attache posted in the High Commission in Islamabad. He was wearing civilian clothes -- a dark jacket and khaki trousers, walking proudly towards the gates that separated his captors' country from his homeland
The Pakistan authorities brought Wing Commander Abhinandan to the Joint Check Post at Attari and he crossed over the Zero Line at around 9:21 p.m(IST). After going through some formalities at the Wagah-Attari border, he was handed over to the BSF authorities. Later, the IAF authorities took him with them." An official was seen putting his arms around the pilot while receiving him
Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman gave a brilliant smile while stepping on the Indian soil, which was a heart-touching moment for all of us, said Amritsar Deputy Commissioner Shivdular Singh Dhillon on Friday night. "It is good to be back in my country," was the first reaction of IAF pilot Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman as he set his foot back on Indian soil. This was stated by an official quoting Varthaman after he received the pilot at the Attari-Wagah border soon after his release by Pakistan
Asked about the delay in repatriating Wing Commander Abhinandan, Dhillon said, "We don't know the real reason. Travel from Islamabad to Wagah-Attari border by road is a long distance. All of us are happy to have him back. Wing Commander Abhinandan was accompanied by an officer of the Pakistan Foreign Office and Indian Defence Attache Group Captain Joy Thomas Kurien
As per the standard operating procedure of IAF, Wing Commander Abhinandan was taken for a detailed medical check-up. This is mandatory because the officer had to eject from an aeroplane, which would have put his entire body under great stress. Sources said Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman was keeping a close watch on the proceedings
The Wing Commander was then driven away from the Attari border towards Amritsar in an Air Force vehicle which was escorted by Punjab police. The Deputy Commissioner said the officer's parents were not present at the check-post. Varthaman is being flown to Delhi and will undergo debriefing on Saturday which will include his physiological as well as a physical check-up in the presence of officials from the military and Intelligence agencies
Prime Minister Narendra Modi welcomed the return of Varthaman, saying the nation is proud of his exemplary courage. "Welcome Home Wing Commander Abhinandan! The nation is proud of your exemplary courage. Our armed forces are an inspiration for 130 crore Indians," tweeted Modi. Earlier, addressing a public rally in Tamil Nadu, Modi said, "every Indian is proud of brave pilot Abhinandan."
Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman also came out with a 'Jai Hind' tweet. Several political leaders, including Congress chief Rahul Gandhi and West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee, also welcomed the IAF hero back home. Vice Chief Marshal R G K Kapoor read out a brief statement before a large posse of reporters in Attari, near Amritsar, on the other side of Wagah.
The handing over of pilot Abhinandan Varthaman to India at Wagah was delayed on Friday as he was asked to record a statement on camera by Pakistani authorities before he was allowed to cross the border, according to sources. The video had several jump cuts indicating that it had been edited heavily, apparently to fit Pakistani propaganda
The Indian Air Force (IAF) said that Varthaman shot down an F-16 but there is no mention of that in the video message recorded before his release. "Recording of his video message caused a delay in his handing over," a source said
Hoping to give a hero's welcome to Wing Commander Varthaman, thousands of Indians gathered on the border carrying the tricolour and garlands since morning. They waited, hundreds of media personnel at the Attari border that separates India from Pakistan and millions of Indians glued to their TV sets and social media accounts for some news, any news about IAF officer Abhinandan Varthaman coming back home from captivity. The wait was finally over at night
Frenzied celebrations broke out at the Attari-Wagah border checkpost in the morning itself with hundreds of people waving the tricolour, getting their faces painted and shouting slogans in anticipation of his safe homecoming and hoping to catch a glimpse of the brave-heart. The daily retreat ceremony at the border front was cancelled for the day by Indian authorities, worried that it could become a security nightmare with the possibility of an estimated 20,000 people gathering at the spot
The sight of a convoy of cars driving out of Attari, about 30 km from Amritsar, sent viewers into a frenzy -- was Abhinandan inside one of them, was he being taken straight to Delhi on a special flight, would he address the media? The wait for Abhinandan -- it was a long, anxious one
Patriotism was the mood of the day. There was garba in Ahmedabad, dancing in Bangalore, a sand sculpture of the officer in Puri and 'yagnas' in several places
Tensions between India and Pakistan flared up after a suicide bomber killed 40 CRPF personnel in Kashmir on February 14 by Pakistan-based terror group Jaish-e-Mohammad(JeM). Amid mounting outrage, Indian Air Force carried out a counter-terror operation, hitting what it said was JeM training camp in Balakot, deep inside Pakistan on February 26. The next day, Pakistan retaliated with a large air formation, comprising 24 fighter jets, including F-16s.
Abhinandan Varthaman was in one of the eight MIG-21s that took on the invader and shot down an F-16, according to officials. During the dogfight, his plane was hit and he bailed out, landing in PoK, where he was taken into custody by the Pakistani army. On Thursday, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan told a special joint sitting of Parliament that his government was releasing the pilot as a "peace gesture". However, India has been maintaining that the Pakistani decision is in consonance with the Geneva Conventions.
After nearly 60 hours in Pakistan since being captured, Pakistani officials handed over Indian Air Force Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman at the Attari-Wagah Border crossing. It was a day of jubilation throughout the country ever since Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan announced the release of Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman. All pics/PTI
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