Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman’s debriefing ends, to go on sick leave for few weeks: IAF sources


NEW DELHI: Indian Air Force pilot Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, who was under the captivity of the Pakistan Army after his MiG-21 fighter aircraft was hit during a dogfight with Pakistani jets last month, has been sent on sick leave following his ‘debriefing’ by the IAF, said government officials.

Varthaman’s debriefing got over on Thursday. “He was thereafter sent on sick leave for three weeks. He has gone home,” said an official.

Following his return from leave, the IAF will examine if he is fit for flying fighter aircraft again. “He will be medically reviewed at the R&R (Army’s Research & Referral Hospital in Delhi) and then a call will be taken if he can fly again,” explained the official.

During his briefing, Varthaman would have been asked about the sequence of events starting from the crash to him being captured by the Pakistan Army. Before his capture, a video had surfaced on social media of him being beaten by locals in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir. Varthaman would also have been asked about his questioning in Pakistan and his observations, which would include the sentiment of the people there. He would also have been asked for his assessment for officials to gather any intelligence.

On Tuesday, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman had said that Varthaman was tortured in Pakistan. “His josh was very high…When I went to meet him the day after he returned from Wagah, before me the air force officials who met him said ‘admirable courage’ and ‘calm’. And after all that experience, gone through mental and physical torture, there was nothing negative in his mind. He said ‘Yes I have gone through, but I am a soldier’,” she had said.

Varthaman 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 February 27 morning to target Indian military installations. He had shot down a Pakistani F-16 but was hit during the engagement, and was forced to bale out in PoK, where he was captured.

On March 1, Pakistan had returned Varthaman to India. He had crossed over to India through the Attari-Wagah border. He was later brought to Delhi and admitted at the R&R Hospital. The medical checkup at the hospital revealed that he had suffered a rib fracture, back contusion and some bruises. He had underwent a MRI scan, which showed that he didn’t suffer spinal and brain injuries.

Varthaman’s return to India de-escalated military tensions between India and Pakistan, which began after the Pulwama terrorist attack. Relations between the two countries had fallen after the attack that killed 40 CRPF troops and with India conducting a pre-emptive air strike on a terrorist facility at Balakot in Pakistan. The Pakistan Air Force had retaliated by targeting Indian military installations in J&K.


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