IAF Pilot Abhinandan Varthaman HIGHLIGHTS: Indian Air Force (IAF) pilot Abhinandan Varthaman, who was in Islamabad’s custody for nearly 60 hours, was released at Wagah Border by Pakistani authorities on Friday, a move widely seen as a de-escalation of tensions between the two neighbouring nations. Abhinandan was handed over to Indian officials at the Wagah-Attari border, the Ministry of External Affairs confirmed. Dressed in a suit, the IAF Wing Commander was accompanied by a woman and Pakistani rangers till the border.
This development comes a day after Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan had announced during the joint session of Parliament that they will return the IAF pilot to India as a “peace gesture”.
Hours after the announcement, the Indian armed forces, at a joint press briefing in New Delhi, assured the country of “a resolute, swift and strong response when needed”. They also added that the IAF pilot’s return was “in consonance with the Geneva Convention.” It had earlier expressed objections to Pakistan’s “vulgar display” of the pilot after videos of him in the Army’s custody surfaced on social media. Sources said Delhi made it clear that there was no deal to be made and there was no room for negotiations but added that there would be consequences if the pilot was harmed or not released.
Indian Air Force Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, who was in Pakistan's custody, returned to India today via the Wagah Border. Follow HIGHLIGHTS in Tamil, Malayalam
IAF pilot Abhinandan Varthaman returns to India
IAF pilot Abhinandan Varthaman was handed over to Indian officials today at Wagah border, his parents travelled to Amritsar to receive him. See photos here
President Kovind welcomes IAF pilot Abhinandan Varthaman
President Kovind welcomes Wg Cdr Abhinandan Varthaman, he tweeted, "Welcome home Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman! India is proud of your courage and sense of duty, and above all your dignity. Wishing you and our entire Air Force every success in the future."
Welcome home Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman! India is proud of your courage and sense of duty, and above all your dignity. Wishing you and our entire Air Force every success in the future #PresidentKovind— President of India (@rashtrapatibhvn) March 1, 2019
India proud of Abhinandan's exemplary courage: PM Modi
Welcoming Abhinandan, Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted, "Welcome Home Wing Commander Abhinandan! The nation is proud of your exemplary courage. Our armed forces are an inspiration for 130 crore Indians. Vande Mataram!"
Welcome Home Wing Commander Abhinandan!— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) March 1, 2019
The nation is proud of your exemplary courage.
Our armed forces are an inspiration for 130 crore Indians.
Medical test of Abhinandan to be held as per procedure: IAF
Sources in the IAF said that the medical examination of Wing Commander Abhinandan will be conducted as per standard procedure.
Rahul Gandhi lauds Wing Commander Abhinandan's bravery
🇮🇳 Wing Cdr. Abhinandan, your dignity, poise and bravery made us all proud. Welcome back and much love. 🇮🇳— Rahul Gandhi (@RahulGandhi) March 1, 2019
Wing Commander Abhinandan to undergo medical checkup
Speaking to reporters on Abhinandan's release, Air Vice Marshal R G K Kapoor said, "Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman has been handed over to us. He will now be taken for a detailed medical checkup because he had to eject from an aircraft. The IAF is happy to have him back."
Air Vice Marshal RGK Kapoor at Attari-Wagah border: Wing Commander #AbhinandanVarthaman has been handed over to us. He will now be taken for a detailed medical checkup because he had to eject from an aircraft. IAF is happy to have him back. pic.twitter.com/ZaaafjUQ90— ANI (@ANI) March 1, 2019
Glad to have you back: Amit Shah on Abhinandan's release
Dear Wing Commander Abhinandan, entire nation is proud of your courage and valour.— Amit Shah (@AmitShah) March 1, 2019
India is glad to have you back.
May you continue to serve the nation and IAF with unparalleled passion and dedication. Best wishes for your bright future.
Wing Commander Abhinandan released by Pakistan
Wing Commander Abhinandan has been handed over to the Indian authorities by Pakistan.
Abhinandan to be released at 9 pm: Reports
As per reports, Wing Commander Abhinandan will be handed over to India by Pakistan authorities at 9 pm.
Scenes from Wagah ahead of Abhinandan's release
Scenes from Wagah ahead of Wing Commander Abhinandan's release. (Express photo/Gurmeet Singh)
Pakistan will respond to any aggression in self-defence: Army chief
Taking to Twitter, Pakistan’s Army Chief Qamar Javed Bajwa said they would “surely respond to any aggression in self-defence”. "COAS had tel comm with Comd USCENTCOM, CDS UK, CDF Australia and Ambs of US, UK & China in Pak. Prevailing stand off between Pakistan & India & its impact on peace & stability in the region & beyond discussed. “Pak shall surely respond to any aggression in self defence”, COAS," he tweeted.
COAS had tel comm with Comd USCENTCOM, CDS UK, CDF Australia and Ambs of US, UK & China in Pak. Prevailing stand off between Pakistan & India & its impact on peace & stability in the region & beyond discussed. “Pak shall surely respond to any aggression in self defence”, COAS.— Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor (@OfficialDGISPR) March 1, 2019
Beating Retreat ends on Pakistan side
Reports coming in from across the border are that the Beating Retreat ceremony on the Pakistani side has ended. India cancelled the event for the day given the usually high presence of spectators at the ceremonial event.
Air Vice Marshal RGK Kapoor to brief media
Air Vice Marhsal RGK Kapoor is likely to brief the media at the Attari border anytime now. A makeshift press table has been assembled from where he mwill read out a statement.
IAF pilot Abhinandan is at Wagah border, to crossover soon
IAF pilot Abhinandan has arrived at Wagah border. He is still on the Pakistani side and will crossover to the Indian side anytime now. Video footage from Pakistani news TV channels showed a heavily-guarded convoy arriving on the Pakistani side of the border.
PM Modi says 'few parties' suspect India's fight against terror
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, speaking in Kanyakumari, took a dig at the UPA government, saying unlike India's response following the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks, India 'acted' this time.
"26/11 happened, India expected action against terrorists but nothing happened. Uri happened and you saw what our brave men did. Pulwama happened and you saw what our brave men did. I salute all those who are serving the nation. Their vigilance keeps our nation secure, PM Modi said.
Modi then went on to hit out at the opposition for 'politicising' the operations carried out by the armed forces.
"Sadly, a few parties, guided by Modi hatred have started hating India. No wonder, while the entire nation supports our armed forces, they suspect the armed forces. The world is supporting India’s fight against terror but a few parties suspect our fight against terror," he said.
Elections will be held on time, says CEC
India's General Elections 2019 will be held on time and the on-going tensions between India and Pakistan will not delay it, Chief Election Commissoner Sunil Arora said, PTI reported.
PM Modi praises Abhinandan
"Every Indian is pround that Wing Commander Abhinandan is from Tamil Nadu," Modi said. The Prime Minister was speaking at the launch of several projects in that state. He also added: "I am proud that India’s first woman Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman is from Tamil Nadu."
Chants of Bharat Mata ki Jai at Wagah
Crowds have gathered to the beating of drums as they await IAF pilot Wing Commander Abhinandan's arrival. Officials at the stop are tigh-lipped as to when he will arrive at the border gate which usually sees hundreds of guests witnessing the Beating Retreat ceremony.
Retreat ceremony at Wagah border cancelled
Ahead of Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman's return, Retreat ceremony has been cancelled at Wagah border, Amritsar Deputy Commissioner Shiv Dular Singh Dhillon told news agency ANI. He also added that senior team of the Indian Air Force will receive the pilot
Ahead of IAF pilot's return, petition in Pak court to stall release
A Pakistani citizen filed a petition in the Islamabad High Court to stop the release of IAF pilot Abhinandan Varthaman, saying he committed crime against the country and should be put on trial here. The petitioner said the Indian pilot had violated the airspace of Pakistan to bomb the country and therefore he committed crime against Pakistan and should face trial here. The court has admitted the petition for hearing. IHC chief justice Athar Minhallah will hear the petition ahead of the Indian pilot's handing over to India.
India wanted to fly Abhinandan Varthaman in special plane, Pak chose Wagah land route for return: Sources
India wanted to send a special aircraft to bring home IAF pilot Abhinandan Varthaman. The request was, however, rejected by Pakistan, sources said. Varthaman will now return home through the Wagah border which is around 25 km from Lahore in Pakistan. India, say sources, wanted an aerial route for Varthaman's return and not the Wagah land border.
Amarinder Singh won't be visiting Wagah to personally receive IAF pilot
Punjab CM Amarinder Singh extended a welcome to IAF pilot Abhinandan Varthaman ahead of his return but chose not to personally receive him at the border. He had earlier sought Centre's permission to personally welcome the Wing Commander at the border.
“I would have loved to go, since both he and his father were from the National Defence Academy, like me, and it would have been an extremely happy and nostalgic moment for me to receive the brave officer,” said the Chief Minister in a statement. However, he says he later thought over it and came to the conclusion that it might contravene the protocols laid out for such cases. When any PoW from the 1965 or 1971 war came back, he was first sent for medical examination, followed by a debriefing, which was likely to be the case with Wing Commander Abhinandan too, he noted.
In the circumstances, it would be more proper for him not to go to the Wagah border to receive the officer, he added. But the CM, who is camping in the border areas, extended a very warm welcome to Abhinandan, saying the whole nation was proud of the way he stood up to questioning by the Pak armed forces during his captivity. “It was top-class and I congratulate him and welcome him back home,” Captain Amarinder added.
Editorial | India waits for its IAF pilot. But Pakistan needs to do more
With relief, a nation waits for Wing Commander Abhinandan. But Pakistan will need to do a lot more. If Imran Khan genuinely believes that terrorism has hurt Pakistan, he should pay attention to this “infrastructure of terrorism”, as the world now describes it.
Pakistan has acted in accordance with the spirit of the Geneva Conventions, to which it is a signatory. India and Pakistan have an informal understanding for returning security personnel who have crossed over into each other’s territory. In this instance, however, given the context of the heightened tensions and war-like atmosphere in which it is taking place, the IAF pilot’s release is even more welcome.
Acting Indian High Commissioner visits Pakistan Foreign Office, completes formalties for IAF pilots's return: Report
Indian authorities in Pakistan have been formally informed of the decision to release IAF pilot Abhinandan Varthaman shortly, sources within the Foreign Office told Dawn News TV. Acting Indian High Commissioner Gaurav Ahluwalia also visited the Foreign Office to complete the formalities ahead of the release, the report added.
Patriotic fervour at Wagah border as crowd waits for IAF pilot
Hundreds of people have gathered at the Wagah border to catch a glimpse of IAF Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman. Patriotic fervour prevailed at the border with border residents singing songs, beating drums and carrying the tricolour in their hands. Barely one-km away from the Indo-Pak border, people sang patriotic songs and raised slogans like "Bharat Mata ki Jai".
A Sikh youth from a nearby area was seen carrying a huge garland, while an elderly man was seen beating a 'dhol'. "If permitted, I want to welcome the Wing Commander with this garland," said the youth carrying garland. Security has also been heightened in the area.
Amritsar's Senior Deputy Mayor Raman Bakshi, who was also present here, could not stop himself from singing patriotic songs. Raising pro-India slogans, a group of youths sang the popular patriotic song, "Is desh ke yaaron kya kehna, yeah desh hai veer jawanoon ka". (PTI)
28-kg garland welcome for IAF pilot Abhinandan Varthaman
A youth in Amristar has brought 28-kilo garland to welcome the IAF pilot Abhinandan Varthaman. A team of IAF officers have reached Attari and Abhinandan is likely to cross the Wagah border at around 4 pm.
Pakistan to skip OIC as India present at meet
Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said that he will not attend the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation's Council of Foreign Ministers because India is present at the event. Addressing the joint session of the parliament, Qureshi said, "I requested them to review the decision [to extend an invitation to Sushma Swaraj]. UAE said that when we extended the invitation, Pulwama had not occurred. If it had, the case would have been different. Now we have extended invitation it would be hard to retract but they would still consult," reported The Dawn
This is the first time that Indian foreign minister has been invited at the OIC in the last 50 years. External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj will attend the foreign ministers’ meeting to be held in Abu Dhabi, on March 1-2, at the invitation of the UAE’s Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan.
The invitation to address the OIC meet is a significant diplomatic victory for India. The invite may be an important outcome of the visit of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, apart from an indication of New Delhi’s improved ties with both Saudi and the UAE. However, it is important to watch what line OIC takes on J&K.
India waits for its IAF pilot
A crowd has begun to gather near Wagah border. With flags in their hands and loud cheers, the crowd is waiting to welcome IAF pilot Abhinandan Varthaman back home. A team of Indian Air Force officials will receive him, PTI reported. His parents are also on their way to Amritsar (Express photos by Gurmeet Singh)
IAF pilot Varthaman's return a diplomatic victory, says Amit Shah
Talking at India Today conclave, BJP chief Amit Shah called Abhinandan Varthaman's return a "diplomatic victory." "Creating a situation for return of pilot Abhinandan in such a short span of time is our diplomatic victory," he said. He also said that India under the leadership of Narendra Modi sent out a "strong message" to Pakistan. Read more
What is MiG21 Bison, the fighter jet Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman was flying?
Described as the "backbone" of the Indian Air Force, MiG-21 Bison is the jet that was downed by the Pakistani authorities during an aerial engagement with Pakistani Air Force (PAF) aircraft. Varthaman who was flying the jet ejected across the Line of Control and is in Pakistan Army custody.
The MiG-21 Bison, one of India’s six fighter jets, is of Russian origin. It is a single engine, single seater multirole fighter aircraft. It has a maximum speed of 2,230 km/hr and carries one 23mm twin-barrel cannon with four R-60 close combat missiles.
This version of the MiG21 — the last in a series of at least 15 variants — was flown for the first time in 1976. The MiG-21 Bison is described as an all-weather, multi-role fighter. It was inducted in the Indian Air Force in the early 1980s. India reportedly has 100 odd aircraft in its fleet. Read more
Cheers, standing ovation and handshakes for IAF pilot Abhinandan Varthaman's parents inflight
Indian Air Force pilot Abhinandan Varthaman's parents received a standing ovation from co-passengers when they took a flight to Delhi. In a video circulating on social media, co-passengers cheered and clapped for the parents and tried to shake hands with them. Abhinandan's father Air Marshal (retired) Simhakutty Varthaman is a decorated IAF officer and has been honoured with the Param Vishisht Seva Medal (PVSM), a military award for “most exceptional order” in peace-time service. His mother is a doctor
Global diplomacy that perhaps played out to ease tensions between India-Pakistan
Indian Air Force pilot Abhinandan Varthaman's release announcement came hours after US President Donald Trump claimed that "we have some decent news," and that the tensions between the two countries will "hopefully end soon." So, was there behind-the-scenes diplomacy to de-escalate matters between the two neighbour nations?
The details of the behind-the-scenes diplomacy will become clearer only in the coming days, but there has been a long history of US engagement to defuse crises between the two neighbours, especially in the years after both countries went nuclear in 1998.
The latest escalation between India and Pakistan comes at a time when there are few experienced South Asia veterans in the Trump administration. Read more
Visuals from Wagah border where IAF pilot Abhinandan Varthaman will be released
IAF pilot Abhinandan Varthaman will be released by Pakistani authorities today at the Wagah border. A team of Indian Air Force officials will receive him at the border, PTI reported
Varthaman's release should be seen as Pakistan's willingness to de-escalate: Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi
During an interaction with CNN journalist Christiane Amanpour, Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said the release of Varthaman is a "peace gesture" and must be seen as its "willingness to de-escalate." "We are willing to hand him over as soon as possible," he added. Read more
US welcomes's IAF pilot's release
The United States welcomed Pakistan's decision to release capture IAF pilot Abhinandan Varthaman from their custody. “We welcome Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan's commitment that Pakistan will release on Friday the Indian pilot held in its custody,” a State Department spokesperson told PTI responding to a question on the announcement made by Khan in the Pakistani parliament.
The US reiterated its call to Pakistan to abide by its UN Security Council commitments to deny terrorists safe haven and block their access to funds. “The United States continues to urge both sides to take immediate steps to de-escalate the situation, including through direct communication. Further military activity will exacerbate the situation,” the State Department spokesperson said. (PTI)
What did Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan say on IAF pilot Abhinandan Varthaman
Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan Thursday announced that IAF's captured pilot Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman will be released on Friday as a "gesture of peace". The surprise announcement during a joint session of Parliament came barely an hour after Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said that Prime Minister Khan is ready to talk to his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi to de-escalate Indo-Pak tensions.
As the opposition leader Shehbaz Sharif took the floor of the House, Prime Minister Khan apologised for interrupting and said he wishes to announce that the Indian pilot captured by Pakistan Air Force on Wednesday will be released Friday as a "peace gesture".
The announcement was greeted by thumping of desks by Pakistani lawmakers. Khan also added that he had "tried calling" Prime Minister Narendra Modi to discuss de-escalation
Welcome to the live blog. Indian Air Force Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, currently in Pakistan's custody, is likely to return to India today via the Wagah border. Varthaman has been in Pakistan Army's custody since Wednesday. Follow this space to track the latest news