Indian tennis sensation and wife of Pakistani cricketer Shoaib Malik, Sania Mirza has welcomed back IAF Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman back to his homeland of India.

The former doubles world number 1 took to her Twitter account, calling the IAF pilot a hero and saluted him for the bravery and dignity he has shown. "Welcome back Wing Commander Abhinandan .. you are our HERO in the truest sense.. The country salutes you and the bravery and dignity you have shown #Respect #WelcomeBackAbinandan Jai Hind," she tweeted.

Sania Mirza Abhinandan Varthaman

Abhinandan ended up in Pakistani custody on Wednesday, February 27, following air combat between India and Pakistan. Subsequently, the Pakistan PM Imran Khan, in his address to the parliament, announced that Pakistan will be releasing the "Indian pilot" as a peace gesture. Abhinandan has just returned to India on March 1.

In the early hours of Tuesday, February 26, Indian air force fighters struck terror camps across the Line of Control (LoC) in retaliation to the Pulwama terror attack which was carried out by a Pakistani-based terrorist group called Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM).

Reports stated that 12 Mirage 2000 jets took part in the operation that dropped nearly thousand-kilogram laser-guided bombs across the LoC. The pre-dawn attack destroyed terror pads in Balakot, Chakoti and Muzaffarabad, as well as Alpha-3 control rooms of JeM. According to reports by the Indian media, around 200-300 terrorists were killed in the process.

Following this, on the very next day, an F-16 fighter jet of the Pakistan Air Force violated the Indian air space and crossed border areas of Jammu and Kashmir's Rajouri district. But this F-16 was shot down by Indian retaliatory fire 3 kilometres with Pakistani territory in Lam valley.

Abhinandan returned to his motherland through the Wagah-Attari around 9:20 pm on Friday evening. 

Abhinandan Varthaman
IAF Wing Commander Abhinandan VarthamanNDTV

The Pulwama terror attack happened on February 14 around 3:15 pm when an explosive-laden SUV rammed into a bus carrying CRPF troopers. This tragic incident claimed the lives of at least 40 CRPF jawans. 

Earlier in the day, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in Tamil Nadu that every Indian is proud of Wing Commander Abhinandan. "India's first defence minister is from Tamil Nadu and IAF pilot Abhinandan is also from Tamil Nadu, we are proud of them."

Abhinandan is expected to undergo a medical checkup upon his arrival following which he will be flown to Amritsar and subsequently to Delhi for de-briefing.