Amritsar: IAF Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman returned back to India at the Wagah-Attari border two days after he was captured by Pakistan.
The countdown for the homecoming of Abhinandan began on Thursday when Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan announced in parliament that he would be released the following day as a gesture of peace.
Abhinandan walked through the Wagah border at 9.20 PM. Some reports had suggested that he was set to cross over between 4-6 PM in the evening. While Indian media had blocked live coverage of his hand-over, viewers saw the handing over through media feed provided by Pakistan TV channels from their side of the border.
Some reports cited “procedural delays” and “documentation problems” for the delay in releasing him. He was brought back by Group Captain J.D. Kurien, India’s Air Attache To Pakistan. TV footage showed a woman was also accompanying him, but her identity could not be ascertained.
“Nation is proud of your exemplary courage. Our armed forces are an inspiration for 130 crore Indians,” tweeted Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Welcome Home Wing Commander Abhinandan!
The nation is proud of your exemplary courage.
Our armed forces are an inspiration for 130 crore Indians.
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) March 1, 2019
Soon after his release, Air Vice Marshal RGK Kapoor told the waiting media at the Wagah border that Abhinandan will be taken immediately for a medical examination. He, however, did not provide any more details. Unconfirmed reports suggested he will be taken to New Delhi for a debriefing before he heads home.
India had requested Pakistan to send an aircraft to bring him back, but Pakistan refused. The objective, insiders observed, was that India wanted to keep the handing over of the pilot a low key affair. It even cancelled the flag-lowering ceremony at the Wagah crossing between Indian and Pakistani soldiers to restrict the crowd.
Abhinandan has become a national hero ever since his capture across the border. News about his extraordinary courage, the calm and the grace he maintained in enemy soil has endeared him to one and all. Even the Pakistani media could not stop from appreciating his bravery, knowing the audiences won’t be comfortable appreciating his deeds of bravery.