Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, who was captured by the Pakistan Army after his aircraft was shot down, returned India to a heroic welcome on Friday night. The IAF pilot is to be debriefed by top officials, for a first-hand account of what happened to him and to glean any intelligence that he can provide. After over 48 hours of tension, Abhinanthan, dressed in a blue blazer, white shirt and beige trousers, crossed the gates at the Attari-Wagah border and officially entered Indian soil on Friday at around 9.30 pm.
An entire nation broke into loud cheer on seeing the live coverage of the historic moment, with thousands thronging the border to accord him a warm welcome. Abhinandan was flying a MiG-21 as part of a formation of IAF jets that had engaged Pakistani fighter aircraft that intruded into Indian airspace in the Sunderbani area of Jammu and Kashmir on Wednesday morning to target Indian military installations.
The gesture, which Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan called an offer of peace and goodwill, is said to be mainly due to pressure from other countries on Islamabad to make such an announcement to prevent further escalation from India. Imran Khan said efforts for de-escalation should not be considered weakness. "All issues should be resolved through dialogue. Despite us opening the Kartarpur corridor, we received no response from India," he said.
He added: "When the Pulwama attack happened, we were blamed within 30 minutes. Indian media created war hysteria. Our media showed solidarity and acted responsibly. We had understood that they [India] will do something. India gave us a dossier today, two days after they attacked us."