03 Mar 2019
Will Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman be able to fly again?
Written byShalini Ojha
The week gone by has been tumultuous for the nation. The capture of Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman and his release on Friday evoked million of emotions among countrymen.
Let's dig deeper.
After air combat, Abhinandan landed in Pakistan
Abhinandan was captured by the Pakistani Army when he strayed over the wrong side of LoC after aerial combat.
24 PAF jets attempted to breach Indian airspace on Wednesday but faced resistance by 8 IAF jets.
Abhinandan, piloting a MiG-21 Bison, shot down US-made F-16 before his jet crashed. He ejected safely but landed in Pakistan where he was roughed up by locals.
Abhinandan scripted history by downing an F-16 jet
Songs about Abhinandan's bravery will be sung for a really long time.
Air Chief Marshal S Krishnaswamy wrote in HT, "He is the first combat pilot in the Indian Air Force (IAF) to shoot down an F-16."
Not allowing the trauma to catch onto him, Abhinandan kept his calm even in captivity. He returned home, with his head held high and chest swollen.
Abhinandan will undergo series of tests
From Wagah border, Abhinandan was taken to a hospital in Delhi for mandatory medical check-ups. On Saturday, Defense Minister Nirmala Sitharaman paid him a visit.
A thorough physical examination will ascertain if he is fit. Apart from this, scans will be conducted to ensure he hasn't been bugged by the Pakistani army.
Abhinandan will undergo psychological tests considering he might have been traumatized.
The most important part is debriefing
Reportedly, Abhinandan told authorities that though he wasn't physically tortured in Pakistan, he was mentally harassed.
After his medical tests are completed, Abhinandan will be interrogated by officials of R&AW and IB.
The final and most important step is the IAF debriefing. Senior officials of IAF will ask Abhinandan questions about his captivity to ensure he hasn't been recruited by the Pakistani Army.
Debriefing is a part of protocol
"Debriefing will be conducted to ascertain how Abhinandan, a POW, was treated and what happened during the captivity and whether he was indoctrinated by Pakistan. In his case, it seems unlikely as he was in their captivity for only 48 hours," Lt Gen. H.S. Panag (retired) told Telegraph.
Before releasing Abhinandan, Pakistan put out a propaganda video
If results of all tests, including the debriefing, turn out to be positive, Abhinandan will fly again.
Notably, before releasing Abhinandan Pakistan shot a propaganda video in which the pilot was seen "praising" their Army's "professionalism".
The heavily edited video, which Abhinandan could have agreed to shoot under duress, got Pakistan flak from various quarters and later it was deleted.
Like Abhinandan, another IAF pilot was captured by Pakistan
Abhinandan's capture and quick release brought back memories of another IAF pilot who crossed over the wrong side, nearly 20 years ago.
Flight Lieutenant Kambampati Nachiketa was taken into Pakistan's custody during the Kargil war. The only PoW of Kargil war, Nachiketa was captured on May 27, 1999, and repatriated on June 3.
Nachiketa was only 26-year-old at the time.
Death is simpler: Nachiketa revealed he was tortured by Pakistan
The eight days which Nachiketa spent in Pakistan were traumatic. He was physically and mentally tortured.
Recalling the horror, Nachiketa once said, "There comes a point where you think 'death is simpler', but fortunately for me, the third-degree part, which is the last part, didn't start."
Facing pressure from India and the global community, Pakistan handed over Nachiketa to Red Cross society.
Nachiketa was awarded for his bravery
Like Abhinandan, Nachiketa entered his country via the Wagah border. His ejection from MiG-27, however, was costly as he had suffered compression fracture.
He was medically downgraded and given ground duties. Nachiketa was awarded the Vayu Sena Medal in 2000. He resumed flying in 2003 and works as a pilot in private airlines.
It's left to be seen what Abhinandan's fate holds for him.