Chennai: The proud parents of Indian Air Force pilot Abhinandan Varthaman were greeted with applause and standing ovation from co-passengers as they took a late evening flight to Delhi to receive their son.
Air Marshal Abhinandan, who was captured by Pakistan after his MiG fighter was shot down, is expected to be released this afternoon and will cross into India through the Wagah border. Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan had on Thursday announced that he would be released today as a peace gesture.
Video taken by a co-passenger showed Abhinandan’s parents being welcomed with cheers as they embarked the flight and made their way to their seats.
A pilot friend sent a better version. #WelcomeHomeAbhinandan. ? pic.twitter.com/tj0U2z4jMh
— Tarun Shukla (@shukla_tarun) March 1, 2019
The passengers cheered, clapped and took photos of them as their son ‘Abhi’ has won the love and respect of the nation with his courage and grace in enemy captivity.
Pakistan’s largest selling daily Dawn had reported how the pilot had displayed extraordinary courage before being captured by the military there. He swallowed classified documents and tried to shoo away the local youths by firing in the air before being overpowered.
To the authorities, he had only revealed his name and number but refused to disclose any other information.
Reports suggest that Abhinandan will be received by a team of the Indian Air Force. He was supposed to walk in through the Wagah border at around 10.30 AM but his release has been delayed till the afternoon.
NDTV, quoting sources, said India wanted to send a special flight to bring back Abhinandan, but Pakistan denied permission. It said India wanted to bring him back to Delhi in a special IAF flight and take him away for a debriefing and medical check-up. Officials did not want the pilot to be accosted by reporters.
Beating retreat at the Wagah border has been cancelled for Friday.
Deputy Commissioner Shiv Dular Singh Dhillon, Amritsar: The Beating the Retreat ceremony (at Attari-Wagah Border) will not be held today. Senior team of the Indian Air Force will receive Wing Commander #AbhinandanVarthaman. pic.twitter.com/n40CcJX7H6
— ANI (@ANI) March 1, 2019