Indian Air Force pilot Abhinandan Varthaman, who was captured by Pakistan when he crossed the Line of Control chasing a Pak F-16 fighter jet, crossed the Attari-Wagah border around 9.20 pm, about three hours after he was reportedly scheduled to return.
The 35-year-old Wing Commander's return was delayed as he was forced to record a video statement by Pakistan authorities before he was allowed to cross the border, news agency PTI has reported, quoting sources.
The video was released by the Pakistani government to its media at 9 pm (IST).
In the video, Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman says he crossed the Line of Control to "find a target", but his fighter jet was shot down.
"The army personnel saved me from the mob. The Pakistani army is very professional and I am impressed by it," the pilot says in the video, that seems to be edited and has at least 15 cuts.
Abhinandan Varthaman spent nearly 60 hours in Pakistani captivity after his MiG-21 Bison fighter went down on Wednesday. He had hit a Pakistani F-16 before he was forced to eject and landed across the Line of Control.
Pakistan on Wednesday 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.
Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on Thursday announced that Abhinandan Varthaman will be returned to India today as a "peace gesture".
The 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.
With inputs from PTI
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