Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, the IAF pilot who became a household name and a national hero after shooting down Pakistan’s F16 aircraft during the Balakot strike in February will be awarded the Vir Chakra (VrC), India’s third highest gallantry award during war time, on Independence Day celebrated on 15 August.
While the country rejoices and congratulates Varthaman, many are of the opinion that he should have received a Maha Vir Chakra, India’s second-highest gallantry award.
The Quint got in touch with several senior IAF officers, who all said that Varthaman got what he deserved and should have got “nothing more, nothing less.”
‘Vir Chakra is Apt, Nothing More, Nothing Less’
Air Marshal PS Ahluwalia said that India should not have crossed the LoC in the first place after Pakistan attacked, but nevertheless, Varthaman got what he deserved
“We should never have crossed the border, we should never have crossed the LoC. Because you have put yourself into a disadvantage by giving them the opportunity for retaining the moral high ground. Under the circumstances, a VrC is most appropriate. Anything more or anything less would have required some other acts of valour,” he said.
“My comment is very simple. Varthaman has got what the Air Force and the country felt he deserved,” Air Chief Marshal Fali Major said.
“The honours and awards in the Air Force and for that matter the entire military are given for the act which has been performed. And I think in the case of Varthaman, he has been definitely given an award that was due deserved because if you go back to the 1971 War, everyone who had an aeroplane got a VrC. So, there is nothing different this time,” Major added.
Air Marshal (Retd) Dhiraj Kukreja had a similar opinion.
“He got what he deserved, nothing more, nothing less. You get a VrC when you shoot down an aircraft. He shot down an aircraft and so he's getting one. We don't go to combat keeping awards and gallantries in mind,” said Kukreja
Emotions, Propaganda Can’t Be Considered
Air Marshal BK Pandey said that gallantry awards cannot be conferred taking people’s emotions into consideration.
“Awards can't be given on the basis of emotions. There's a committee which decides that and various parameters are considered. The situation that the officer was facing, the response, the decision that he made, etc. are taken into consideration. Honours can’t be subject to propaganda either,” he said.
“The VrC as decided by the Air Force is very appropriate. This decision must have been taken after a lot of consideration by professionals. For these things, one doesn’t get emotionally carried away,” Ahluwalia said.
Kukreja said that officers don’t go to combat keeping in mind the gallantries and honours.
“When Varthaman shot down the aircraft, he wasn’t sitting and thinking that that’s my Vir Chakra. His first thought was to get out safely, which unfortunately didn’t happen,” Kukreja said.