Ahead Of IAF Pilot Abhinandan Varthaman's Return, Attari-Wagah Retreat Ceremony Cancelled

IAF Pilot Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman was captured after his plane went down during an aerial battle on Wednesday in which he shot down a Pakistani fighter jet.

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Ahead Of IAF Pilot Abhinandan Varthaman's Return, Attari-Wagah Retreat Ceremony Cancelled

Abhinandan Varthaman is expected to be released at the Attari-Wagah Border.


New Delhi: 

The daily beating retreat and band ceremony at the Attari-Wagah border was cancelled on Friday as India waited for the return of Indian Air Force pilot Abhinandan Varthaman from Pakistan. The Wing Commander was captured by Pakistan after his plane went down during an aerial battle over the Line of Control on Wednesday.

Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan had announced that he was going to be released as "peace gesture", signalling the easing of tension after the two countries engaged in an aerial clash for the first time in nearly half a century.

Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman is expected be handed over to India at the Attari-Wagah border this evening.

India wanted to bring him back from Pakistan by a special flight, but was denied permission. India, say sources, did not want Abhinandan Varthaman to return to media and crowd frenzy at Attari-Wagah.

The elaborate flag-lowering ceremony at the Attari-Wagah crossing between Indian and Pakistani soldiers draws thousands of spectators on both sides.

World leaders had urged both countries to step back as hostilities peaked over the past few days as India sent fighter planes to strike a terror training camp in Pakistan and Islamabad tried to target Indian military installations in response.

Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman engaged in an air duel with one of the 24 Pakistani F-16s that attempted air strikes across the Line of Control on Wednesday and shot it down before his jet crashed and he was forced to eject.

Videos put out on Pakistani accounts showed the pilot blindfolded and wounded, his hands tied, calmly answering questions. The videos, removed soon after, were seen as a violation of the Geneva Convention and led to global calls for his release and restraint from both sides.

After the pilot's release was announced, the Army, Navy and Air Force, in a rare joint briefing in Delhi, said they were prepared to tackle any provocation from across the border.

Imran Khan's decision to release Abhinandan Varthaman was the result of immense international pressure to pull both countries back from the brink. The US, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia played a role, say sources; there has been no official comment from the Indian government on these efforts.



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