With Pakistan authorities announcing to release captured Indian Air Force (IAF) pilot Abhinandan Varthaman today, the officer is likely to be brought back to India through the Wagah-Attari joint check-post.
Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh has wished to receive him, saying he has come to know that the Pakistan government “has decided to release Abhinandan Varthaman from Wagah”.
Who is Abhinandan, the Indian pilot?
Indian Air Force pilot Abhinandan Varthaman has become the human face of the latest flare-up following the release of videos showing him being captured and later held in custody.
Indian government is demanding the Pakistan authorities to ensure his safe return immediately.
Khan has already called for talks with India to prevent the risk of a "miscalculation" between their nuclear-armed militaries.
According to reports, Pakistani authorities are likely to bring Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman from Rawalpindi to Lahore and hand him over to the International Committee of Red Cross (ICRC) under the Geneva Convention rules.
Quoting sources, an IANS report said the 35-year-old pilot would be brought to the Wagah -Attari JCP between noon and 2:00pm, though the Border Security Force (BSF) had not been communicated the exact time.
Defence and security officials will debrief Varthaman after his return.
The IAF officer was captured on Wednesday after his MiG-21 Bison fighter jet was hit during an air combat with Pakistan Air Force jets near the Line of Control (LoC) in Kashmir and he landed on the other side of the LoC.
Even as New Delhi had sought his immediate release, unconditional and unharmed, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan announced in the National Assembly on Thursday that the pilot would be freed as a “gesture of peace”.
Meanwhile, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh expressed his desire to receive the IAF pilot after he is freed on Friday.
“Dear @narendramodi ji, I’m touring the border areas of Punjab & I’m presently in Amritsar. Came to know that @pid_gov has decided to release #AbhinandanVartaman from Wagha. It will be an honour for me to go and receive him, as he and his father are alumnus of the NDA as I am,” he said in a tweet.
Earlier, he welcomed Imran Khan’s announcement on the release of the IAF pilot, terming it a goodwill gesture that would help ease the prevailing tensions at the border.
Interacting with BSF personnel at the Khalra observation post during a tour of the border areas as part of his confidence-building measures for the residents, the CM said the Pulwama attack by Pakistan-backed terror forces was an act of cowardice, necessitating the retaliation by the Indian government.
He, however, hoped normalcy would return soon at the border.
The CM extended all support on behalf of his government to the BSF to deal with the current situation in the aftermath of the IAF strikes on terror hideouts across the Line of Control (LoC).
“We are there for you,” he told the BSF personnel. A nostalgic Amarinder recalled his own days in the sector in 1965, when he was with the Indian Army, and said he still remembers his own 22 days in the region.
During his tour of the Tarn Taran region to assess the ground situation, the CM interacted with residents of at least 15 border area villages, including Shaheed Baba Tara Singh Wala, Rajoke, Kalia Shatara, Dholan, Lakhna and Kals. During his interaction with the residents, he urged them to remain calm and not to be swayed by rumours.
Assuring the huge crowd that had gathered at village Mastgarh, just two Kilometers from the International Border to see him, the CM reaffirmed his commitment to ensure the safety and security of every citizen.
“The Punjab government stands shoulder to shoulder with you in this critical hour,” Amarinder told the residents in village Kals, urging them not to panic. Earlier, CM also visited the 14th BSF Batallion Headquarters at Khemkaran, the bravehearts of which are stationed along the international border.
The CM also informed the people that he had already directed the state Chief Secretary and DGP to stay in close touch with the district and police administration of the six border districts viz. Tarn Taran, Amritsar, Ferozepur, Gurdaspur, Fazilka and Pathankot, and work with them on the contingency plans.
Meanwhile, in an informal chat with reporters, the CM said that during his visit to the border villages he found the morale of the people and forces very high. He said he had met officials and personnel from the Army and the BSF and they all were well prepared to deal with any situation.
Copyright: The Statesman/ Asia News Network (ANN)