New Delhi: ‘It is good to be back in my country’, were the first words Indian Air Force (IAF) pilot Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman said as he was handed over to India by Pakistan at Attari-Wagah border past 9 PM on Friday, an official quoted him as saying.
The Wing Commander, who remained in Pakistan’s custody for over 60 hours, was received by senior Border Security Force (BSF) officers at Zero Line that marks the India-Pakistan land border. The BSF then handed him over to the IAF. The pilot will now undergo a detailed medical checkup to gauge his fitness levels. (ALSO READ – Wing Commander Abhinandan’s Homecoming Was Delayed as Pak Forced Him to Record Statement, Say Reports)
Congratulatory messages started pouring in as soon as Wing Commander Abhinandan was whisked away by the IAF officials. President Ram Nath Kovind tweeted, “India is proud of your courage, sense of duty and above all, your dignity.”
Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted, “The nation is proud of your exemplary courage…our armed forces are an inspiration for 130 crore Indians.”
Welcoming the IAF pilot, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman tweeted, “Proud of you Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman. The entire nation appreciates your valour and grit. You held your calm in the face of adversity. You are an inspiration to our youth. Salute. Vande Mataram.” BJP President Amit Shah said, “May you continue to serve the nation and IAF with unparalleled passion and dedication. Best wishes for your bright future.”
Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh said,”Welcome Home! The entire Nation is proud of Wing Commander Abhinandan.”
Congress president Rahul Gandhi also welcomed the Wing Commander saying, “Wing Commandar Abhinandan, your dignity, poise and bravery made us all proud. Welcome back and much love.”
Wing Commander Abhinandan’s release from Pakistan came a day after Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan announced in Parliament that he would be released on Friday as a ‘peace gesture’. However, India disagreed to his claim stating that it was a gesture in consonance with all Geneva conventions.
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 remained in Pakistan Army’s custody since then.