AMIDST unabated violation of The Line of Control (LOC), Pakistan has handed over Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman to the Indian Authorities. He arrived Indian on March 1 through the Attari-Wagah border at 9.20 pm the same day. Pilot Wing Commander Abhinandan after he was captured by Pakistani army from Horra’n village, about 7 Kms from the LOC) in Bhimber district of Pak Occupied Kashmir. 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 was brought to Delhi late at night and was given a rousing welcome at the airport from where he was taken to a medical facility for examination. Soon after Abhinandan was handed over by Pakistan at the Attari-Wagah border, Air vice Marshal RGK Kapoor told the waiting 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 Indian authorities however said that Pakistan had to allow him come back as per the Geneva Convention. The BSF on Friday cancelled The Beating 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 media persons waiting for hours at the Attari border felt dejected as the pilot was not barred from them .Millions of Indians however remained glued to TV sets and social media awaiting the pilot’s return hale and hearty. The handing over of Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman to India 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. PTIk describes Wg cdr as ‘prisoner of War’. Pakistan’s Foreign Office 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. Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the nation is proud of exemplary courage. Our armed forces are an inspiration for 130 crore Indians, PM added. Abhinandan’s parents — his father, an IAF veteran, had travelled to Amritsar from Chennai to receive him(image courtesy : PTI).
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