The Ministry of External Affairs Wednesday confirmed that an Indian Air Force (IAF) pilot is “missing in action” after the IAF shot down a Pakistan fighter aircraft during an air-to-air engagement. Islamabad has claimed that he is in their custody, while New Delhi said it is ascertaining facts about the missing pilot.
Before the MEA briefing, the Pakistan Army had released a 46-second video showing a blindfolded man claiming he is IAF’s Wing Commander Abhinandan. Later in the evening, another video appeared of what seemed like the same person claiming he was being treated well by the Pakistan Army. The veracity of both videos could not be verified and the Indian authorities have also not commented on the same.
On Thursday, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan announced that Wing Commander Abhinandan will be released on Friday.
The episode is a grim reminder of the Kargil war when flight lieutenant Kambampati Nachiketa was taken prisoner by the Pakistan Army on May 27, 1999 following ejection from his MiG-27 aircraft after suffering engine flame-out. He was subsequently sent back to India eight days later after being interrogated by the authorities.
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Upon his capture by Pakistani Northern Infantry, Nachiketa was subjected to intense thrashing before a senior officer intervened and ordered his men to back off. Following intense backdoor efforts by the Indian government, Nachiketa was handed over to the Red Cross that brought him back to India where he was greeted by President K R Narayanan and Prime Minister Vajpayee as a hero.
In the same war, Squadron leader Ajay Ahuja was killed by the enemy in captivity on May 27. The officer’s aircraft was hit by enemy’s shoulder-fired Surface-to-Air Missile (SAM) while he was trying to locate a downed pilot in spite of being aware of the danger to his life owing to the existence of SAMs in the area.
Tragically, Ahuja paid the price for his bravery. His aircraft was hit and damaged severely. Though the officer ejected safely, he was killed by the enemy in captivity.
The fresh confrontation came a day after the Indian Air Force carried out pre-dawn air strikes against a training camp of Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) in Pakistan, based on credible evidence that the UN-proscribed terror group intended to launch terror attacks. The JeM had taken the responsibility of the terror strike in Kashmir’s Pulwama district on February 14, in which 40 CRPF personnel were killed.
In a brief media briefing, MEA spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said Pakistan has used its Air Force to target military installations in India in response to India’s pre-dawn air strikes on Pakistan’s Balakot, but added that their attempts were foiled successfully.
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