IAF Pilot Abhinandan to be Released by Pak on Friday: Who’s He?

The wing commander, whose MiG 21 Bison aircraft was shot down by PAF, ejected safely but landed across the LoC.

Updated28 Feb 2019, 12:05 PM IST
India
3 min read

On a food travel show in 2011, Abhinandan Varthaman said “bad attitude” is what makes a good fighter pilot.

Thirty-four-year-old Wing Commander Abhinandan of the Indian Air Force (IAF) is in Pakistan’s custody following the crash of an Indian MiG-21 Bison on Pakistan soil on Wednesday, 27 February. He ejected safely from his aircraft, but landed across the Line of Control.

Speaking in the Pakistan Parliament, Imran Khan on Thursday, 28 February, confirmed that he will be released on Friday, 1 March.

Earlier on Thursday, his father, retired Air Marshal Simhakutty Varthaman, prayed for his safe return, expressing hope that he does not get tortured in Pakistan.

In a message, he said: “We are so proud of him. I am sure all your hands n blessings are on his head, prayers for his safe return, I pray that he does not get tortured, and comes home safe n sound in body and mind (sic).”

Amid escalating Indo-Pak tensions, a day after India carried out air strikes on Jaish-e-Mohammed terror camps in Pakistan’s Balakot, Pakistan shared a video of his capture. Later, Armed Forces Spokesperson Major General Asif Ghafoor shared his photo, adding that Abhinandan was “being treated as per norms of military ethics”.

Appearing on the Rocky and Mayur show on NDTV Good Times, Abhinandan – who was a flight lieutenant back in 2011 – said teamwork is the most important thing for fighter pilots, adding:

“I trust Dusty (co-pilot) with my life, and he trusts me. That’s our training. And this is blind faith. No two ways about it.”

Minister of State for External Affairs VK Singh on Thursday, 28 February, called Abhinandan an “embodiment of a mentally tough, selfless and courageous soldier” and expressed hope for an early return of the pilot.

Earlier, Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting Rajyavardhan Rathore had also prayed for his well-being and early return.

Who is Abhinandan Varthaman?

Abhinandan is the son of retired Air Marshal Simhakutty Varthaman, who currently lives in one of the southern states of India and last served as Eastern Air Command chief.

Simhakutty was also a consultant for the Mani Ratnam film Kaatru Veliyidai – a movie set in the backdrop of Kargil war which showed an Indian pilot in Pakistan’s captivity.

He is married and has two children, a relative told The New Indian Express.

According to the Bharat Rakshak website, Abhinandan was commissioned into the IAF in 2004. The captured Wing Commander’s brother is also serving in the Air Force, a BBC report said.

‘Expect His Safe Return’

The Pakistan Army released two videos of captured IAF pilot Abhinandan – one showing him blindfolded and bloodied, and another while having tea. To most queries asked by the Pakistanis in the second video, he says he is “sorry” as he is not supposed to divulge any details.

In both videos, he is seen answering basic questions in a composed and stoic manner.

There were other video clips on social media where he could be seen being beaten by locals while lying in a stream before being taken away by Pakistani soldiers.

The veracity of these videos could not be ascertained.

Amid the ongoing tussle, the MEA had summoned the Acting High Commissioner of Pakistan Syed Haider Shah on Wednesday, demanding his “immediate and safe return”.

It was also made clear to Pakistan that no harm should be caused to the Indian defence personnel, the ministry said, adding it has conveyed its strong objection to the neighbouring country at the "vulgar display" of an injured personnel in violation of all norms of International Humanitarian Law and the Geneva Convention.

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Published: 27 Feb 2019, 05:08 PM IST

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