Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman returned to India on Friday evening via Wagah border to a hero's welcome after being held by Pakistan for over 48 hours. Abhinandan was captured by Pakistani forces after his Mi-G-21 crashed on Wednesday morning during an aerial combat with Pak F-16 jet, which had entered the Indian air space with intention of targeting military installations in Jammu and Kashmir. Abhinandan was captured moments after he shot down Pakistani F-16 foiling its mission.
Do send in your congratulatory messages for Abhinandan on social media using #BharatKaAbhinandan.
12:09 am (March 2): Abhinandan Varthaman reaches Delhi, taken to Army Hospital for further medical care. Abhinandan has incurred injuries after he ejected from crashing MiG-21 fighter jet and also when the mob of local Pakistanis tried to beat him after the crash. His right eye had visible injury marks when he reached India earlier tonight. His family - wife, mother and father are present with him at the hospital.
11:29 pm: Reports suggest that Pakistan has withdrawn the heavily-edited propaganda video of Abhinandan Varthaman, which was recorded prior to his release to India. The credibility of the video was questioned after it was pointed out by Indian media that it had frequent edits.
10:40 pm: Welcome home Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman! India is proud of your courage and sense of duty, and above all your dignity. Wishing you and our entire Air Force every success in the future: President Kovind
10:35 pm: Abhinandan has reached Amritsar air base. He will fly to Delhi's Palam airport from here. His family awiats him in Delhi.
10:15 pm: Welcome Home Wing Commander Abhinandan! The nation is proud of your exemplary courage. Our armed forces are an inspiration for 130 crore Indians. Vande Mataram!: PM Modi
09:43 pm: IAF pilot Abhinandan was 'smiling' when he crossed the border, the deputy commissioner of Amritsar told Indian media outlets after IAF pilot's arrival in India.
09:41 pm: Nation erupts in joy after Abhinandan's return. People have come out in Indian to celebrate with firecrackers, and music and dance.
09:31 pm: Speaking media after Abhinandan left from Wagah, Indian Air Force issued a statement that the pilot will be taken now for a medical check-up which is mandatory for someone who has been ejected form an aeroplane.
09:29 pm: Wing Commander Abhinandan has left the Attari border. He is expected to be flown back to India via an IAF jet along with senior defence officials. His family will meet him at Palam airport in New Delhi.
09:20 pm: Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman walks back through Attari-Wagah border
09:06 pm: Pak propaganda video on Indian media
The propaganda video recorded by Pakistan shows Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman criticising Indian media. The video has been released to Pak media.
09:05 pm: Pak channel Duniya news claims Abhinandan has been handed over to India, however, we do not have the confirmation of the news.
08:57 pm: Pakistan releases propaganda video to Pak media.
In a last-ditch effort to put a dramatic show for world media, Pakistan delayed Abhinandan's handover for several hours and released a propaganda video recorded during his captivity.
08:55 pm: Experts say Pakistan delayed Abhinandan's handover for several hours. Pakistan has changed the timing of handover of IAF's Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman twice. Experts say that medical check-up and official paper work should not have taken over 30 minutes and he should have been handed over to India by 5 pm. Sources say that Pakistani forces have recorded a video to use to as propaganda.
08:49 pm: The handover might now take place at 9 pm tonight: Sources tell ANI
08:42 pm: As India awaits news from Wagah border about Abhinandan's arrival, Indian Army tweets lines from famous Hindi poet Shivmangal SIngh Suman's poem: Kya haar mein kya jeet mein, kinchit nahin bheybhit main (In victory or defeat, I am never afraid)
क्या हार में क्या जीत में— ADG PI - INDIAN ARMY (@adgpi) March 1, 2019
किंचित नहीं भयभीत मैं,
संधर्ष पथ पर जो मिले,
यह भी सही वह भी सही।
वरदान माँगूँगा नहीं।।
चाहे हृदय को ताप दो,
चाहे मुझे अभिशाप दो,
कुछ भी करो कर्तव्य पथ,
से किंतु भागूँगा नहीं।
वरदान माँगूँगा नहीं।।#IndianArmedForces#AlwaysVictorious pic.twitter.com/Xq7oyXY0nI
07:18 pm: Pakistan to sue India for destroying forests in Balakot: Report
News agency Reuters reports that Pakistan plans to lodge a complaint against India at the United Nations, accusing it of “eco-terrorism” over air strikes that damaged pine trees and brought the nuclear-armed nations to blows, a government minister said on Friday. Climate Change Minister Malik Amin Aslam said Indian jets bombed a “forest reserve” and the government was undertaking an environmental impact assessment, which will be the basis a complaint at the United Nations and other forums.
06:30 pm: First visuals of movement in Abhinandan's welcome contingent. The suspense continues on his official arrival.
06:22 pm: Spirit of Indians eagerly waiting at Wagah-Attari border for hero Abhinandan's arrival refuses to die down with the sun. As the night approaches, people gathered at the border post continue to dance to patrotic tunes as they wait for the news of his arirval in India. Sources on the ground say it may take another 15-20 minutes in Abhinandan's arrival.
05:53 pm: Beating the retreat ceremony has ended on Pakistani side. Abhinandan is likely to return to India in the next 10 minutes: say sources.
05:43 pm: Sources say Wing Commander Abhinandan was handed over to India before the beating the retreat ceremony. The paperwork for immigration has already been completed, sources said. However, the officials are keeping mum on this.
05:31 pm: IAF to brief media shortly, suspense continues on arrival of Wing Commander Abhinandan
05:15 pm: Foreign Secretary briefs parliamentary panel on Indo-Pak front:
As the nation has its attention pinned at Wagah border for Abhinandan's arrival, Foreign Secretary Vijay Gokhale in Delhi briefed the Parliamentary Standing Committee on External Affairs on the Indo-Pak front. The committee headed by Congress leader Shashi Tharoor met in Parliament House this afternoon. The briefing was on Indo-Pak relations in the light of the strain in a relationship after the Pulwama attack and an air strike by India, officials said. "The parliamentary Standing Committee on External Affairs will receive a briefing from the MEA on the current situation with Pakistan..." Tharoor tweeted earlier.
05:10 pm: Wing Commander Abhinandan likely to come back to India after 5:30 pm as Pakistan has decided to go ahead with beating the retreat ceremony
04:59 pm: Sources say that Pakistan has refused to cancel the beating retreat ceremony at Wagah border despite the exchange for the IAF pilot. India had announced the cancellation of the ceremony in the light of ongoing event at the border, however, Pakistan has decided to go ahead and push Abhinandan's arrival by another half hour at least.
04:55 pm: Wing Commander Abhinandan is likely to fly back to Delhi by the Indian Air Force Embraer Craft from Amritsar to Delhi. Earlier, th same aircraft took a five-member team, including Air Vice Marshal Prabhakaran nd Air Vice Marshal Ravi Kapoor and two diplomats from MEA's Pakistan desk to Amritsar.
04:48 pm: Abhinandan, who is set to return to India after being detained by Pakistan for over 48 hours, achieved an unprecedented feat before being captured, say defence experts. They say that shooting down an F-16 fighter jet from a MiG-21 Bison has never been done before, thus, is an unprecedented act of bravery and heroism.
04:37 pm: Festivities, dance, music, dhols break out at Wagah Attari border despite security forces asking people to leave the area. People are waiting with batted breath as Abhinandan is about to walk back on Indian soil after over 48 hours of Pak captivity. Wing Commander Abhinandan was captured by Pakistan after his jet MiG-21 crashed during an aerial combat with Pak F-16 in Indian air space on Wednesday morning.
04:30 pm: Pak continues to violate ceasefire
Even as it claims to extend the peace gesture by releasing captured IAF pilot Abhinandan, Pak forces continue to violate ceasefire in Jammu and Kashmir. Pak Rangers violated ceasefire in Nowshera sector in Rajouri district at 1615 hours today. Indian Army is retaliating.
04:17 pm: Abhinandan has reached the Pak-side of Wagah-Attari border. Air Vice Marshal RGK Kapoor, Assistant Chief of Staff among IAF contingent at Wagah border to receive Abhinandan
04:15 pm: Pak court dismisses plea to stop the release of IAF pilot
The Islamabad High Court has dismissed a Pakistani citizen's plea to stop the imminent release of the captured Indian Air Force pilot Wing Commander Abhinanadan Varthaman. A Pakistani citizen had filed the petition in the Islamabad High Court (IHC) to stop the imminent release of Varthaman, saying he committed crime against the country and should be put on trial. The petition in the IHC sought the court's order to stop Prime Minister Imran Khan's government from handing over the Indian Air Force pilot.
Abhinanadan is likely to be handed over to the Indian authorities at the Wagah border on today afternoon. "The Indian pilot will be handed over to Indian likely around 4pm," a source in Pakistan Rangers told PTI.
03:55 PM: My family is 130 crore Indians. I will live for them, I will die for them. I am not in public life to further a dynasty. I am here to do whatever I can for the growth of India. I seek your blessings to create an India where the dreams of the poorest of poor are fulfilled: PM Modi tells a rally in Kanyakumari.
03:30 pm: Elections will be held on time, says Chief Election Commissioner when asked about poll schedule in wake of India-Pakistan tensions.
3:10 PM: Prime Minister Narendra Modi, while addressing a gathering in Kanyakumari, says India is proud that brave wing commander Abhinandan hails from Tamil Nadu. "I am proud that India’s first woman Defence Minister is from Tamil Nadu. It makes every Indian proud that the brave Wing Commander Abhinandan hails from Tamil Nadu," the prime minister says just as he begins his address.
3:03 PM: An ambulance has reached the Wagah Border. A medical check up will be conducted on Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman when he arrives.
3:00 PM: Pakistan curbs media coverage at Wagah border today
2:36 PM: Punjab CM says "Would love to go to receive Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman but there's laid out protocol whenever anybody comes back like happened to Prisoners of war in '65 & '71, they had to first go for medical & then be debriefed. I think same process will be followed here"
2:20 PM: In a statement, Deputy Commissioner Shiv Dular Singh Dhillon, Amritsar said: The Beating the Retreat ceremony (at Attari-Wagah Border) will not be held today. Senior team of the Indian Air Force will receive Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman.
2:00 PM: India has announced that beating retreat ceremony at the Wagah Border will not be held today.
1:52 PM: The Indian defence establishment was also mulling over sending a special aircraft to Pakistan to bring back Wing Commander Varthaman who was captured by Pakistan during an aerial combat on Wednesday.
1:50 PM: According to official sources, India conveyed to Islamabad that it wants him to be sent back via aerial route and not through the Wagah land border. However, late in the night on Thursday, Pakistan communicated to India that he will be returned through the Attari-Wagah border.
1:10 PM: India has asked Pakistan to hand over Wing Commander Abhinandan before the Beating Retreat ceremony today.
12:57 PM: According to Pakistani media, Wing Commander Abhinandan is expected to reach Wagah border around 3:30 pm today
12:55 PM: MEA to brief Parliamentary panel on Indo-Pak relations post Pulwama terror attack: The Parliamentary Standing Committee on External Affairs will be briefed on the current Indo-Pak relations by the foreign affairs ministry on Friday. The committee headed by Congress leader Shashi Tharoor will meet in Parliament House this afternoon. "The parliamentary Standing Committee on External Affairs will receive a briefing from the MEA on the current situation with Pakistan..." Tharoor tweeted earlier. The briefing will be on the present Indo-Pak relations in the light of the recent strain in relationship after the Pulwama attack and a air strike by India, officials said. The committee will also be briefed on the "new regime" in Pakistan led by Prime Minister Imran Khan and its relationship with India in light of the recent developments, they said.
12:50 PM: Deputy Commissioner Shiv Dular Singh Dhillon, Amritsar: Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman will cross the border today, can't tell you exact time since there are certain formalities. A senior Indian Air force team from Delhi is here, they will be the ones to receive him.
12:40 PM: Ahead of the arrival of Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, security deployment has been increased at the Attari-Wagah border .
12:18 PM: A special thanks giving prayer was organised today by state Home Guards at Kalikambal Temple in Chennai ahead of Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman's release by Pakistan.
12:15 PM: Carrying tricolour flags, garlands and posters, scores of enthusiastic people have assembled at the Attari Joint Check Post (JCP) to receive Indian Air Force (IAF) pilot Abhinandan Varthaman.
11:51 AM: Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi has appealed to UN General Secretary and Russia to play a mediation role to de-escalate tensions in South Asia.
11:46 AM: Meanwhile, Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi has decided to not attend Council of Foreign Ministers meeting in Abu Dhabi "as a matter of principle for having extended invitation as a Guest of Honour to Sushma Swaraj." Pakistan's move comes in the backdrop of current India-Pakistan tensions, which have escalated ever since the Pulwama terror attack on February 14.
11:45 AM: UN General Assembly President Maria Fernanda Espinosa is following with "great concern" the situation between India and Pakistan and calls on both sides to seek dialogue to avoid an escalation of tensions, her spokesperson said. Espinosa’s spokesperson Monica Grayley said the UNGA President stresses that the use of "diplomatic means is basically the best way to settle political differences, to settle political disputes" and hopes that the relevant parties can resolve the current situation through peaceful means. The President of the General Assembly is "actually following with great concern the latest reports on the situation between India and Pakistan,” she told reporters. Espinosa, who had visited India before assuming office last year and had made a trip to Pakistan in January this year, “asks for both sides right now to seek dialogue to avoid an escalation of tensions but also to avoid further tragic loss of life."
11:41 AM: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has said that he had "good conversations" with Indian and Pakistani leaders and was hopeful that the rising tensions will come down between the two nuclear-armed neighbours."I spent a good deal of time on the phone last night talking to leaders in both countries, making sure there was good information exchanged, encouraging each country to not take any action that would escalate and create increased risk," he said. "I had good conversations, and I am hopeful that we can take down the tension there, at least for the time being, so they can begin to have conversations that don't portend risk of escalation to either of the two countries. So we're working hard on that," Pompeo said.
11:35 AM: According to latest inputs, Wing Commander Abhinandan's plane from Islamabad has departed for Lahore.
11.25 AM: Pakistan media reports that the Indian High Commission in Islamabad has processed all the necessary paper work related to Abhinandan Varthaman's return. The IAF Wing Commander will be taken to India post noon through the Attari-Wagah border.
11.18 AM: China cancels all flights to and from Pakistan - China has cancelled all flights to and from Pakistan and rerouted its international aircraft flying over the Pakistani airspace due to the regional tensions, official media in Beijing reported on Friday. The closure of Pakistan's airspace in response to escalating tensions with India disrupted major routes between Europe and South East Asia and left thousands of air travellers stranded worldwide.
11.15 AM: Restrictions imposed in Kashmir - In the wake of the Jamaat-e-Islami being declared "unlawful association" and union cabinet decision on Article 35A, authorities in Jammu and Kashmir have imposed restrictions in parts of the city here to maintain law and order. Senior separatist leader Mirwaiz Umer Farooq was also put under house arrest and restrictions kicked in the old city area here.
11.08 AM: Indian Air Force officials have reached the Attari-Wagah border to receive Abhinandan Varthaman. BSF IG is accompanying the IAF officials.
11.00 AM: In another big news, Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi has admitted that Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) chief Masood Azhar is in his country. Talking to CNN, Qureshi said Masood Azhar is "unwell to an extent that he cannot leave the house". "According to my information, he is very unwell. He is unwell to the extent that he can't leave his house, because he's really unwell," Qureshi said. The development comes after India and the United States increased diplomatic pressure on Pakistan to act against Masood Azhar. The JeM is responsible for carrying out the Pulwama terror attack in which 40 CRPF personnel lost their lives.
10.30 AM: Meanwhile, police have detain six Jamaat-e-Islami activists in Tral. The Jamaat-e-Islamia activists were detained by the police during fresh raids in various villages of Tral in south Kashmir's Pulwama district.
10.06 AM: The United States on Friday asked Pakistan to take action against Jaish-e-Mohammed and its leadership. Nathan Sales, Ambassador-at-Large and Coordinator for Counter-terrorism, US Dept of State, said: The United States has designated JeM (Jaish-e-Mohammed) & its leadership under our domestic authorities to cut off the flow of money & deprive them of the resources they need to commit attack like the one we witnessed a couple of weeks ago. It is important to amplify those unilateral efforts we are taking under our own laws with multilateral affords. We call on other countries to follow our lead and we call on the international community as a whole to follow our lead in designating the organisation and its leadership. We call on international community to designate Jaish E Mohammad & its leadership.
10.01 AM: According to reports, Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman will reach the joint check post at Attari-Wagah border at around 2 PM. India's air attache to Pakistan, Group Captain JD Kurian, will accompany Abhinandan to India.
9.58 AM: UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has also welcomed Pakistan's offer to release Abhinandan Varthaman. His Spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said: "The report of the release of the Indian pilot by the Pakistani authorities would be very much a welcome step. We would encourage both parties to do whatever they can to de-escalate the situation." Guterres has been in contact "with both sides at various levels", Dujarric said, while declining to identify the contacts.
9.50 AM: Meanwhile, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh has also expressed his desire to receive Abhinandan at the Attari-Wagah border. Amarinder tweeted to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and said he will be honoured to receive Abhinandan.
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 a honour for me to go and receive him, as he and his father are alumnus of the NDA as I am.— Capt.Amarinder Singh (@capt_amarinder) February 28, 2019
9.40 AM: A large number of people from all walks of life are flocking to the Attari-Wagah border to welcome the hero IAF pilot. Meanwhile, our reporter Surbhi Sharma, who is present at the location, caught up with some of the locals who are celebrating with Dhols - a popular Indian drum.
9.35 AM: Meanwhile, the Attari-Wagah border is getting all decked up to welcome Abhinandan. Here are some latest pictures.
9.15 AM: Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthman's parents took a late night flight from Chennai to New Delhi as they get ready to welcome their son back from Pakistan.
8:55 am: Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman likely to reach Wagah border at 2 pm: Sources
The announcement about Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman -- taken prisoner a day earlier -- came hours after India demanded his release and ruled out talks on the issue, saying Pakistan cannot use this issue for a deal.
Khan said countries were ruined because of miscalculation and alleged that there was a "war hysteria" in India.
"I'm afraid there might be a miscalculation. War is not a solution. If India takes any action, we will have to retaliate," he said at the session called to discuss the rising tensions with India.
"The only purpose of our strike (on India on Wednesday) was to demonstrate our capability and will," he said. "We did not want to inflict any casualty on India as we wanted to act in a responsible manner."
He said he tried to call Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the telephone on Wednesday because "escalation is not in our interests nor in India's".
The 35-year-old Wing Commander was captured by Pakistan on Wednesday after his MiG was shot down and it fell in Pakistani territory during a dogfight.
Earlier in the day, India said that Pakistan needed to create a conducive atmosphere for talks by taking credible and verifiable action against cross-border terrorism emanating from its soil and terrorist proxies.
Government sources said India had told the international community that it was Pakistan which escalated matters by targeting military installations and what India did was counter-terrorism action as Pakistan had not shown any inclination to act against terrorists and their proxies after the February 14 Pulwama attack and the claim by the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) was ignored.
They also referred to Khan's statement on Wednesday that two Indian pilots were captured and later corrected it to one, saying that if they cannot get a simple fact right, it speaks about the credibility of the Pakistan government.
The sources said that at 9.45 a.m. on Wednesday, a sizeable force of Pakistan Air Force jets - over 20 in number - flew from a number of bases in Pakistan and approached the Indian air space.
Some crossed the Line of Control (LoC) and launched some laser-guided bombs. Their target was military installations but they missed narrowly because they could not come closer.
This, the sources said, happened against the backdrop of Khan's claim that Pakistan wanted to show its strength but it was false because their actual target was military installations.
Khan said on Thursday that Islamabad's action was intended to convey that if India can come into Pakistan, then Pakistan can do the same.
The sources said that there was deliberate effort by Pakistan to create a war psychosis by shutting its airspace and informing foreign embassies that India would launch missiles and also that there could be attack by the sea.
He said India conducted a targeted operation at a venue where fidayeen jehadis were being trained and there were no civilian casualties.
On Khan's demand for actionable intelligence, the sources said India had considered giving it but felt there will be no use given that Pakistan had not acted on the detailed information given after the terror attacks on Mumbai and the Pathankot IAF base -- even after a Pakistani team was given access.
They said India consistently briefed the international community and Pakistan's reluctance in the past to act against terror perpetrators, and this was appreciated.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Thursday welcomed Pakistan's offer to release Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman.
Meanwhile, the United States on Thursday also welcomed Pakistan's decision to release the captured Indian Air Force pilot.
(With inputs from agencies)