Brave Indian pilot, Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, who became the face of the tense military confrontation between India and Pakistan, conveyed to the IAF brass that he wants to return to the cockpit as soon as possible, officials said. For the last two days, the Indian Air Force (IAF) pilot has been undergoing medical treatment at a military hospital here.
Varthaman told senior IAF commanders and doctors treating him that he wants to start flying at the earliest, the officials told PTI. On Wednesday, he became the first IAF pilot to shoot down an F-16 fighter jet during an aerial combat with the Pakistani Air Force. Varthaman was captured by the Pakistani Army after his MiG-21 Bison jet was hit in a fierce dogfight.
He returned to India to a hero's welcome on Friday night. His health condition is being monitored by a group of doctors at the Army's Research and Referral hospital, the officials said.
"The efforts have been to ensure that he returns to the cockpit soon," said a military official. The officials said Varthaman has been in high spirits despite the harassment he suffered in Pakistan.
Varthaman arrived in the national capital on an IAF flight around 11:45 PM Friday, nearly two-and-half hours after he crossed over to India through the Attari-Wagah border. The IAF pilot was first taken to the Air Force Central Medical Establishment (AFCME), a compact and specialised medical evaluation centre for aircrew of all the three services.
Later he was brought to the Army's Research and Referral hospital. After he was captured, Varthaman showed courage and grace in handling the most difficult circumstances for which he was praised by politicians, strategic affairs experts, ex-servicemen, celebrities and people in general.
Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa met Varthaman separately on Saturday during which he apprised them about the mental trauma he was subjected to during his captivity in Pakistan.
During the meeting, the defence minister commended him on his valour and expressed the nation's gratitude for his selfless service. Tensions between India and Pakistan escalated after Indian fighters bombed terror group Jaish-e-Mohammed's biggest training camp near Balakot, deep inside Pakistan early Tuesday.
Pakistan retaliated by attempting to target Indian military installations on Wednesday. However, the IAF thwarted their plans. The Indian strike on the Jaish camp came 12 days after the terror outfit claimed responsibility for a suicide attack on a CRPF convoy in Kashmir, killing 40 soldiers.