Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman today visited Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman at a hospital in Delhi, where the Indian Air Force pilot had been taken last night for a medical check-up after his arrival in India from Pakistan. Ms Sitharaman told the pilot that the entire nation is proud of his courage and determination.
News agency PTI quotes officials to say that Abhinandan Varthaman explained to the Defence Minister his near 60-hour captivity in Pakistan.
A photo that has been released to the media shows Ms Sitharaman speaking with the Wing Commander in his hospital room. The Air Force pilot, who walked into India from the Attari-Wagah border from Pakistan wearing a blue blazer and white shirt last night, could be seen wearing his uniform in hospital today.
News agency PTI quoted officials to say the extensive medical tests were a part of a "cooling down" process which is expected to continue till Sunday. The Wing Commander is at the Air Force Central Medical Establishment (AFCME), a compact and specialised medical evaluation centre for aircrew of all the three services.
Once, the health check-up phase is over, debriefing sessions will be arranged for him, PTI reported.
The pilot also met his parents and several top officials of the Air Force this morning, according to PTI.
. @DefenceMinIndia meets the #AirWarrior#AbhinandanVarthaman at his hospital room in Delhi to convey the sentiment of the Nation. Appreciates his impeccable combat skills as well as calmness in adversity. Interacts with the family and the hospital staff too. pic.twitter.com/PrAf3X7rEj— Defence Spokesperson (@SpokespersonMoD) March 2, 2019
The 35-year-old Air Force pilot was shot down on Wednesday while flying a MiG-21 Bison fighter in a dogfight with Pakistani aircraft and captured.
Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan's decision to return the pilot marked a dramatic shift in mood after the two countries engaged in an aerial clash on Wednesday for the first time since 1971.
The confrontation erupted in the days following the February 14 Pulwama attack by Pakistan-based terror group Jaish-e-Mohammed, in which over 40 soldiers were killed. India's air strikes on Tuesday targeted a huge Jaish training facility in Pakistan's Balakot to which Pakistan had responded by sending a fleet of fighter jets across the Line of Control to target Indian military installations.
With inputs from PTI