New Delhi: The parents of Indian Air Force (IAF) Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman received a standing ovation on flight to Delhi during wee hours on Friday. The ‘missing’ pilot will be handed over to the IAF at Wagah Border around 4 PM, Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi confirmed on Friday. (Live updates on India-Pakistan Standoff)
The Chennai-Delhi flight with Wing Commander Abhinandan’s parents on board came to a stop at the tarmac at Indira Gandhi International Airport (IGIA) a little after midnight. Ensuring that Air Marshal (retd) S Varthaman and Dr Shobha Varthaman get off first, the passengers made way for them amid a loud applause. (ALSO READ – He Talked so Bravely, We Are so Proud of Him: Father of IAF Pilot Abhinandan)
In photos and videos shared by passengers on social media platforms, the couple, who came to Delhi on their way to Amritsar to bring their son home, can can be seen acknowledging the clapping, cheers and thank yous with nods of their heads.
Soon after landing in Delhi, the couple left for Amritsar to receive their son at the Wagah border post noon on Friday. Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan buckled down under the global pressure and announced in Parliament on Thursday that Abhinandan would be released as a ‘peace gesture’.
The IAF pilot Abhinandan’s MiG 21 was shot and he bailed out after bringing down one Pakistani F-16 fighter during a dogfight as three Pakistani jets violated Indian airspace in Jammu and Kashmir’s Nowshera and Poonch on Wednesday. He has been in Pakistan since then.
His father, a recipient of several honours, including a Param Vishisht Seva Medal, in a message on Thursday had lauded the courage and bravery shown by his son. “Abhi is alive, not injured, sound in mind, just look at the way he talked so bravely… A true soldier… We are so proud of him,” he had said.