If Abhinandan Varthaman gets fit immediately, he will fly a fighter jet, Air chief Marshal BS Dhanoa said today when he was asked about the Indian Air Force (IAF) pilot who was brought back to the country from Pakistan on Friday.
"We don't take chances with the medical fitness of a pilot," the Air Chief said, adding that Abhinandan Varthaman would fly a fighter jet if he is fit.
Medical tests conducted on him has identified a rib injury probably caused by an assault by local residents in Pakistan soon after he parachuted across the border on Wednesday, news agency ANI reported. Abhinandan Varthaman also had a lower spine injury, the MRI scan reportedly showed. This could have happened when he ejected from his MiG-21 that was shot down by Pakistan jets during an air combat, it quoted a source as saying.
When asked about Prime Minister Narendra Modi's comment that the nation suffered "a big loss" due to the swaarthneeti (policy of self-interest) and the politics surrounding the Rafale fighter jet deal with France, the Air Force chief said he can't comment on the politics but was happy that Abhinandan Varthaman was back home.
Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, who returned from captivity to a hero's welcome on Friday night, has been undergoing treatment at the military hospital in Delhi for the last three days.
The pilot's health is currently being monitored by a group of doctors at the Army's Research and Referral Hospital, but "efforts are on to ensure that he returns to the cockpit soon", PTI quoted a military official as saying.
Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and Air Chief Marshal Dhanoa visited him in the hospital over the weekend, during which he described to them the mental trauma he was subjected to during his time - nearly 60 hours - in Pakistan.
India and Pakistan had escalated after the Pulwama terror attack in which over 40 Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) soldiers were killed on Febraury 14. Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed claimed responsibility for the attack.
Twelve days later, Indian fighter jets destroyed Jaish's biggest terror training camp in Pakistan's Balakot. Today, Air Chief Marshal Dhanoa said the IAF "can't count how many people died" when asked to give a figure of terrorists killed in the February 26 air strike.
(With inputs from PTI)