After spending two days in captivity in Pakistan, Wing Commander Abhinandan Vathaman returned to India to a hero’s welcome today on March 1, 2019. Though he was expected to be released around noon, he was handed over to Indian authorities around 9:25 PM, ending an anxious wait of millions of Indians. Earlier in the day thousands of people, some coming from far off places, had gathered in the Wagah Border, through which he was to re-enter the Indian soil. The celebrating crowds were seen cheering in Abhinandan’s name and dancing, to express their joy over his return, though they were kept away at a distance from the Wagah gate.
Wing Commander Abhinandan was captured by Pakistani Army when he landed in PoK after the MiG 21 jet he was piloting went down over LoC. He was part of the squad that engaged with Pakistan’s three F16 fighter jets, which had intruded into Indian airspace to attack military installations. Before going down, he had reportedly shot down an F16 of Pakistan, really an incredible feat.
He was reportedly attacked by locals before being taken over by Pakistan Army personnel, but Wing Commander Abhinandan kept his cool and shot in the air to scare away the attacking mob. He also tried to swallow some documents he was carrying to prevent them from falling into the enemy’s hand, it is said.
As the picture and videos of his capture went viral on social media, people across India expressed solidarity with him and demanded his return. At the same time Indian government demanded his release unconditionally, as well as mobilised tremendous diplomatic support for an immediate release.
As a result, apart from the US, the UK, France, Germany and Australia, even Arab countries like Saudi Arabia and UAE are reported to have put pressure on Pakistan to release the Wing Commander. Finally, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan announced in the National Assembly on Thursday that Pakistan would release him as a ‘peace gesture’ on Friday.