Abhinandan Return LIVE: IAF Wing Commander Returned to India at Wagah-Attari Border, Received by BSF

Abhinandan Return LIVE: IAF Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman has been returned to India at the Wagah-Attari border two days after he was captured by Pakistan during an intense aerial dogfight. Wing Commander Varthaman was received by the Border Security Officials. Hundreds of media personnel are at the Attari border that separates India from Pakistan and millions of Indians glued to their TV sets and social media accounts to watch the homecoming of the IAF pilot.
The breathless countdown for the homecoming of Abhinandan — who became the centrepoint of escalating tensions between the two fractious neighbours with his capture after his plane was downed — began on Thursday when Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan announced in parliament that he would be released the following day as a gesture of peace.

21:40 (IST)

Cavalcade carrying IAF Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman leaves for Amritsar from Wagah-Attari border.

21:38 (IST)

Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman’s first tweet after IAF Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman’s release.

21:34 (IST)

RGK Kapoor added, “Varthaman will be taken from here for a detailed medical examination because he had to eject the plane. IAF is happy to have him back.”

21:33 (IST)

Air Vice Marshal RGK Kapoor is addressing the media following the wing commander’s return to India. “We are happy that Wing Commander Abhinandan has been handed over to us. The entire procedure was carried out according to Air Force operatives,” he said.

21:29 (IST)

IAF Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman was accompanied by IAF Group Captain Joy Thomas Kurien, Defence Attache to Indian High Commission in Pakistan, during the time of his release.

21:23 (IST)

IAF Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman crosses over to India, received by BSF.

21:20 (IST)

Documents are being exchanged between India and Pakistan, following which IAF Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman will be handed over to the Indian side of the border.

21:16 (IST)

Visuals show IAF Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman being handed over to India. Pak Rangers accompany him to the border gates.

21:07 (IST)

IAF Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman is now being handed over to Indian officials after Pakistan changed the release timings twice.

20:55 (IST)

Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav expressed joy over IAF Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman’s release but lamented over the death of 4 security personnel in Kupwara encounter. “Wing Cmmdr. Abhinandan’s family will feel great joy at being reunited with him. Sadly 4 more service families have been robbed of that joy today. Everyday the number of martyrs rises,” he tweeted. The former Uttar Pradesh chief minister alleged that the Modi government has failed in Jammu & Kasmir. “This Govt. has proven incapable of stabilising Kashmir and preventing further loss of life,” he added.

20:23 (IST)

UPDATE | Last-minute paperwork at the Wagah-Attari border is delaying IAF Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman’s return to India. Local officials now say the wing commander may be returned to India at 9pm.

20:20 (IST)

Amritsar municipal corporation deputy mayor Raman Bakshi, who reached at the Wagah border along with his supporters said, “Today we are full of enthusiasm as our hero is returning.” He was also carrying Indian flags, sweet boxes and garlands. Neha, a young tourist from Delhi, said, “I feel blessed that today I am going to have a glimpse of a real life hero who without caring for his life showed such valor.”

20:18 (IST)

Patriotic fervour prevailed at the border throughout Friday with residents singing songs, beating drums and carrying tricolour. They sang patriotic songs and raised slogans like ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’. A youth was seen carrying a huge garland, while an elderly man was seen beating ‘dhol’. “If permitted, I want to welcome the Wing Commander with this garland,” said the youth carrying garland. Many were also seen with tattoos of Indian flags on their faces.

20:16 (IST)

A large number of people from different walks of life thronged the Attari border on Friday to witness the return of their ‘hero’ Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman. Excited citizens carrying tricolor, raising patriotic slogans and dancing to ‘dhol’ beats waited with bated breath to catch a glimpse of the IAF pilot.

19:40 (IST)

Rahul Gandhi welcomes Varthaman back to India | Congress president Rahul Gandhi has welcomed IAF Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman back to the country, reports PTI.

19:14 (IST)

LS Speaker hail’s India’s efforts | Hailing India’s efforts in bringing back Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman from Pakistan, Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan on Friday said the brave soldiers of India made the neighbouring country bow under pressure.

19:08 (IST)

Retired Group Captain Tarun K Singha, who has known the Varthaman family for decades, said that the image of a calm, composed Abhinandan that many saw after his capture by the Pakistani Army just shows the genes that the wing commander inherited from his mother, Dr Shobha Varthaman (in pic), who has worked in many conflict zones all through her career as a doctor with Medicine Sans Frontiers (Doctors Without Borders).

18:53 (IST)

VK Singh says Pakistan has not done any favour | Union minister of state for external affairs General VK Singh has said that it should not be perceived that Pakistan did a favour to India by returning IAF Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman. “It must be understood that #Pakistan has not done us a favor by returning #WingCommanderAbhinandan. Under the #GenevaConvention, a serving soldier captured during conflict has to be returned (sic),” he said. Singh added that it should not be forgotten that after 1971, India released over 90,000 PoWs from Pakistan.

18:42 (IST)

According to sources, the initial round of debriefing is over and a medical checkup is underway. The wing commander had been returned to India a short while ago.

18:29 (IST)

West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee on Friday welcomed the return of IAF Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman. In a tweet, she said, “Welcome home #AbhinandanVarthaman Welcome home sweet home” (sic).

18:17 (IST)

Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal has welcomed the return of Wing Commander Abhinandan. “I salute your bravery and the courage of your family. India is proud of you,” said Kejriwal.

18:13 (IST)

Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal has welcomed the return of Wing Commander Abhinandan. “I salute your bravery and the courage of your family. India is proud of you,” said Kejriwal.

18:10 (IST)

Air Vice Marshal to address media | Air Vice Marshal RGK Kapoor is likely to address a press briefing soon at the Attari border. Arrangements are being made for the media briefing.

17:59 (IST)

Punjab chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh earlier said that he chose not to receive Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman at the Wagah border to ensure that the defence protocol that is usually followed in such cases is not violated in any way. On Thursday evening, he had expressed his desire to personally welcome Abhinandan at that Wagah-Attari border.

17:52 (IST)

Sources suggest Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman might also appear in front of the media later on Friday. He was returned to India around 5:20pm earlier.

17:37 (IST)

IAF Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman has reached the Attari border. He was accompanied by Indian high commission officials from Lahore to Wagah-Attari border. He is on the Indian soil and will be taken to Amritsar soon.

17:22 (IST)

Wg Cdr Abhinandan returns to India | IAF Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman returned to India.

17:19 (IST)

Hours after Pakistan announced its decision to release Indian Air Force pilot Abhinandan Varthaman, India conveyed to Islamabad that it wants him to be sent back via aerial route and not through the Wagah land border. However, late on Thursday night, Pakistan communicated to India that he will be returned through the Attari-Wagah border only. The Indian defence establishment was also mulling over sending a special aircraft to Pakistan to bring back Wing Commander Varthaman.

16:59 (IST)

The daily Retreat ceremony held at the Attari-Wagah border front along the India-Pakistan border in Punjab was cancelled for Friday in view of IAF Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman’s release by Pakistan at this frontier, the BSF said. A senior official of the force said the martial ceremony was called off due to administrative requirements. Officials said it was estimated that over 20,000 people could gather on the Indian side to welcome IAF pilot and it could be a security nightmare. The decision was communicated to the Pak Rangers. It is expected that the Rangers will also issue directions to suspend the ceremony and not allow people to congregate on their side, BSF said.

16:58 (IST)

Pakistani media reports that IAF Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman underwent a medical test at the Wagah border.

16:53 (IST)

Standing ovation for pilot’s parents | On Thursday night, the parents of Indian Air Force (IAF) Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman were given a standing ovation when they de-boarded an IndiGo Chennai-New Delhi flight. According to people in the knowledge of the incident, although the parents wished to travel without any fanfare, fellow passengers discovered their identity and voluntarily gave them the first right of de-boarding.

As analysts painstakingly debated each nuance of India-Pakistan relations in TV studios, anchors went hoarse keeping up the constant commentary, and journalists looked for information on when and how he would be handed over to India. The government decided to keep it all under wraps.

Patriotism was the mood of the day. There was garba in Ahmedabad, dancing in Bangalore, a sand sculpture of the officer in Puri and ‘yagnas’ in several places.

Frenzied celebrations broke out at the Attari-Wagah border checkpost in the morning itself with hundreds of people waving the tricolour, getting their faces painted and shouting slogans in anticipation of his safe homecoming and hoping to catch a glimpse of the brave-heart.

The daily retreat ceremony at the border front was cancelled for the day by Indian authorities, worried that it could become a security nightmare with the possibility of an estimated 20,000 people gathering at the spot.

The will-we, won’t-we-see-him game was played out across countless homes and offices, where work may have continued but with one eye on the screen — TV or mobile or computer — to monitor the developments.

But information was scarce and speculation endless. The sight of a convoy of cars driving out of Attari, about 30 km from Amritsar, sent viewers into a frenzy — was Abhinandan inside one of them, was he being taken straight to Delhi on a special flight, would he address the media?

No real answers were forthcoming. Till late in the evening, it wasn’t clear how and where or even if the officer was handed over to Indian authorities.

As darkness fell on a cold night in Attari and the crowds thinned, journalists continued their stakeout. The wait for Abhinandan — it was a long, anxious one.

The Ancient Times

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