After being in Pakistan's captivity for over two days, Indian Air Force Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman finally touched the Indian soil on Friday, March 1. The IAF braveheart went through a series of medical tests at the border. However, this is just the beginning.
Abhinandan Varthaman has reportedly conveyed to the IAF brass that he wants to return to the cockpit as soon as possible, as per official reports. The IAF pilot has been undergoing medical treatment at a military hospital in Delhi for the last two days.
"I want to start flying at the earliest," Varthaman told senior IAF commanders and doctors who are treating him.
Abhinandan was reportedly the first IAF pilot who shot down a Pakistani F-16 before he was caught by Pakistan while flying a MiG-21 Bison fighter in a dogfight with Pakistani aircraft. Media reports state that the Wing Commander had brought down PAF's F-16 jet before his aircraft was brought down.
He returned to India after spending nearly 60 hours in Pakistan's captivity. And this is no ordinary return. Abhinandan held his head high as he walked into India through the Wagah-Attari border with his chest swelling with pride and a smile on his face.
On Friday, the whole country celebrated the homecoming of the IAF pilot with - what else? - tricolours, garlands, and cameras to give Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman a hero's welcome.
The IAF pilot was first taken to the Air Force Central Medical Establishment (AFCME), a compact and specialised medical evaluation centre for aircrew of all the three services. Later he was brought to the Army's Research and Referral hospital.
His health condition is being monitored by a group of doctors at the Army's Research and Referral hospital. "The efforts have been to ensure that he returns to the cockpit soon," said a military official.
The officials said Varthaman has been in high spirits despite the harassment he suffered in Pakistan.
Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and Air Chief Marshal B S Dhanoa met Varthaman separately on Saturday during which he apprised them about the mental trauma he was subjected to during his captivity in Pakistan. During the meeting, the defence minister commended him on his valour and expressed the nation's gratitude for his selfless service.
Tension mounted between arch-rivals India and Pakistan after Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing that killed over 40 CRPF jawans in Jammu and Kasmir's Pulwama district on February 14.
In retaliation, India carried out a pre-dawn airstrike on a JeM terror camp in Balakot sector at 3:30 am, killing 200-300 terrorists.
A day after, Pakistan Air Force jets entered Indian airspace near LoC and dropped bombs in the country's territory.
Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman was captured on February 27 after his MiG-21 Bison was hit by the Pakistan Army across the Line of Control (LoC).
On Thursday, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan announced that Abhinandan would be released Friday as a "peace gesture".