Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman was captured after an aerial fight between the Indian Air Force and Pakistan on Wednesday.
New Delhi, February 28, 2019 —
- Whole Of India rejoicing the release of Abhinandan Varthaman by Pakistan
- Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman was captured by Pakistan on Wednesday
- Pakistan PM Imran Khan announced that he will be released on March 1 as a goodwill gesture.
The Indian pilot held by the Pakistan army will be released tomorrow, Pakistani PM Imran Khan said today. Speaking in the Pakistani National Assembly, Imran Khan said Islamabad will be releasing the Indian pilot tomorrow as a gesture of goodwill.
The development today came a day after Pakistan claimed to have “arrested” an Indian Air Force pilot after shooting down his fighter jet. Pakistan claimed the pilot — whom the Pakistani military identified as Wing Commander Varthaman — was shot down during a confrontation with the Pakistani air force.
The Ministry of External Affairs, in a statement, admitted a MiG-21 Bison fighter jet was “lost” and its pilot “missing in action” following a confrontation between the Indian and Pakistani air forces over Jammu and Kashmir.
These developments, which elevated tensions between New Delhi and Islamabad to an alarmingly high level, came a day after the Indian Air Force carried out a pre-emptive airstrike deep inside Pakistan. This action took place 12 days after the February 14 Pulwama terror attack.
Below is the timeline of the events from the JeM attack on Indian army convoy to the capture of IAF wing commander Abhinandan and announce of his release:
- On February 14 this year, a Jaish-e-Mohammad terrorist rammed an explosive-laden SUV into a bus carrying Central Reserve Police Force jawans. 40 jawans were martyred as a result of the devastating blast in Pulwama in Jammu and Kashmir. The CRPF bus was part of a larger convoy of around over 70 vehicles that were transporting around 2,500 jawans from Srinagar to Jammu. The Pakistan-based and Masood Azhar-led terrorist group Jaish-e-Mohammad claimed responsibility for the suicide bombing.
- The Pulwama terror attack thrust the country into mourning. The Narendra Modi government responded by giving security forces the “full freedom” to retaliate to the Pulwama terror attack at a time, place and in a manner of their choosing. Opposition parties condemned the Pulwama terror attack and said they stood by the armed forces and the Modi government.
- The Pulwama terror attack attracted near-universal condemnation. The United States even named Pakistan in its statement condemning the Pulwama attack as strategic experts began debating how India would respond. Experts more or less agreed the Narendra Modi government would have to ‘do something’ considering that the Pulwama attack took place just a couple of months before the crucial Lok Sabha election.
- For 12 days after the Pulwama terror attack, nothing happened. Then came the tweet. At around 5 am, Major General Asif Ghafoor — the spokesperson of the Pakistani military — tweeted, “Indian Air Force violated Line of Control. Pakistan Air Force immediately scrambled. Indian aircrafts gone back. Details to follow.” As Indian media picked up the story, there was massive confusion. Finally word came in of something “big” having taken place in Pakistan and that a government briefing would be held later in the day. Unverified reports said the Indian Air Force had carried out an airstrike in Pakistan.
- Finally, at 11:30 am on February 26, the Ministry of External Affairs held a press conference and announced the airstrike. Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale said India had carried out an “intelligence-led, non-military, pre-emptive action” in Pakistan. The airstrike destroyed the largest terrorist camp of Jaish-e-Mohammad, located in Balakot, and killed several terrorists, commanders and trainers. Sources said that 12 Indian Air Force Mirage 2000 jets were involved in this pre-dawn operation.
- The Indian Air Force airstrike was met with jubilation in India. Opposition leaders saluted the Indian Air Force while Bharatiya Janata Party said this was an example of Narendra Modi’s exemplary leadership. Meanwhile, the Indian government remained mum on the airstrike. Vijay Gokhale’s delicately worded statement was the Indian government’s only official word on the IAF airstrike.
- Meanwhile, Pakistan reacted to the Indian Air Force airstrike with denial. Pakistan admitted that Indian Air Force jets had entered its airspace but said Pakistani jets had managed to repel. As the Indian jets rushed back, they hastily dropped their payloads, Pakistan claimed, but it not lead to any major damage, except to trees, or casualties. Pakistan also said it would retaliate to the Indian Air Force action.
- The Indian Air Force airstrike heightened tensions between India and Pakistan and the volatile relationship between New Delhi and Islamabad worsened just a day later. On February 27 morning, Indian and Pakistani air forces clashed over Jammu and Kashmir. Pakistan claimed to have attacked six locations in India and to have shot down two Indian fighter jets. The Pakistani military also claimed it had two Indian pilots in custody, a claim that was later corrected to one Indian pilot in custody.
- The Ministry of External Affairs held a press conference on February 27 afternoon where spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said and Indian pilot was “missing in action”. Kumar did not identify the pilot and also said that Indian jets had shot down one Pakistani fighter. Soon after, Pakistani Twitter handles started tweeting videos of an Indian pilot being questioned by Pakistani army officers. In one video, the pilot identified himself as Wing Commander Abhinandan. India strongly objected to the videos and demanded the immediate, safe and unconditional return of its pilot.
- Now, Pakistan PM Imran Khan has said the pilot being held by the Pakistan army will be released tomorrow. Imran Khan was speaking in the Pakistani National Assembly where he said that Pakistan does not want a war. Khan said he is willing to speak to PM Narendra Modi. Khan said that as a peace gesture, Pakistan would release the Indian pilot tomorrow.