New Delhi | A delegation of IAF team will on Friday receive Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, captured by Pakistan during an aerial combat, at the Wagah border, official sources said.
Varthaman’s MiG 21 was shot and he bailed out after bringing down one Pakistani F-16 fighter during a dogfight to repel a Pakistani attack on Wednesday morning. He has been in Pakistan since then.
Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan announced in Parliament on Thursday that Varthaman would be released on Friday as a “peace gesture”.
Tensions between the two countries escalated after Indian fighters bombed terror group Jaish-e-Mohammed’s biggest training camp near Balakot deep inside Pakistan early Tuesday. It came 12 days after the JeM claimed responsibility for a suicide attack on a CRPF convoy in Kashmir in which 40 soldiers were martyred.
A team of Indian Air Force officials will receive Wing Commander Abhinandan at the Wagah border on Friday evening, the sources said. It is not clear whether Varthaman will be handed over to the International Red Cross or to the Indian authorities by Pakistan.
India on Wednesday demanded the immediate and safe return of the IAF pilot.
“We are happy that our pilot who had fallen across the Line of Control and was in the custody of Pakistan is being released. We are extremely happy to have him back. We only see it as a gesture which is in consonance with the Geneva Conventions,” Air Vice Marshal R G K Kapoor, the assistant chief of Air Staff, told a news conference.
Meanwhile, Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh has offered to receive Wing Commander Varthaman at the Attari border.