Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, who shot down a Pakistan F-16 fighter jet across the Line of Control before he was captured on Wednesday, will be released tomorrow as a "gesture of peace", Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan announced today.
An Air Force pilot for more than a decade and a half, Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman had in 2011 said on an NDTV show that "bad attitude" was a pre-requisite to be a good fighter pilot. Back then, Abhinandan Varthaman, who is from Chennai, was a flight Lieutenant, who flew a Sukhoi fighter jet.
On Wednesday, the 34-year-old Wing Commander piloted a MiG-21 Bison aircraft along with seven other Indian jets to intercept a pack of 24 Pakistani aircraft that were targeting Indian military installations, NDTV has learnt.
Abhinandan Varthaman was in hot pursuit of a Pakistani F-16 jet, which he shot down with an R-73 air-to-air missile, across the Line of Control. During the aerial combat, his aircraft too was hit by an AMRAAM (Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile) missile that was fired by another F-16, and the Wing Commander was forced to eject and landed into Pakistan Occupied Kashmir, where he was captured, sources told NDTV.
Pakistan yesterday circulated videos of the captured Wing Commander, where he was seen being interrogated -- wounded, tied up and blindfolded. The clips were, however, taken off once New Delhi accused Pakistan of violating the Geneva Convention for prisoners. A video circulated later showed the pilot sipping tea, saying he was being 'well looked after" by officers of the Pakistani army.
The Indian Air Force pilot comes from a family that has an excellent track record of serving the Air Force for generations. Abhinandan's father S Varthaman, who was an Air Marshall, had served in the 1999 Kargil War with Pakistan. Abhinandan's grandfather, Simhakutty, had served the nation during World War II in the Air Force.