Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman will be conferred the Vir Chakra gallantry medal on the Independence Day. The Indian Air Force (IAF) braveheart, who stayed in Pakistan's captivity for over 50 hours after his MiG-21 Bison crashed during a dogfight with Pakistan in February this year, became the face of the military confrontation between India and Pakistan.
During the February 27 air-skirmish between the IAF and Pakistan Air Force a day after Balakot strikes, Abhinandan Varthaman shot down a Pakistani F-16 fighter jet near the Line of Control. However, he was captured by Pakistani forces and returned to India after three days.
Varthaman's name was highly recommended by the IAF for the gallantry awards. Along with him, IAF's Squadron Leader Minty Agarwal will also be awarded the Yudh Seva Medal for her role as a fighter controller during the February 27 dogfight between the two air forces.
Also, pilots of the five Mirage-2000 fighter jets, who had dropped bombs on a Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) terror launch-pad in Balakot sector in Pakistan's Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, are also likely to be decorated with Vayu Sena medals. "The final list of gallantry awardees will get the nod from President Ram Nath Kovind on August 14. Only after the list has been formally approved by the President can we disclose the names of awardees to the general public," a senior Indian Air Force official told news agency IANS.
Tensions between India and Pakistan escalated after Indian fighters bombed terror outfit Jaish-e-Mohammed's biggest training camp near Balakot sector, deep inside the Pakistani soil on February 26. Pakistan retaliated by attempting to target the Indian personnel the very next day. However, the IAF thwarted their plans.
IAF hero Abhinandan strayed into Pakistan's territory after shooting down the F-16. But, his aircraft, a MiG-21 Bison, had been hit by a missile forcing him to eject from the fighter jet before it crashlanded in Pakistan. Though Pakistani security forces captured him but later released Abhinandan to India at the Wagah border.
The Indian strike on the Jaish-e-Mohammed camp came two weeks after the terror group claimed responsibility for a suicide attack on a CRPF convoy in Kashmir, killing 40 troopers.