Former IAF chief BS Dhanoa has said that Pakistan had no option but to release Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman in February 2019 when his MiG-21 was downed in a dogfight in Kashmir. Speaking to news agency ANI, he said that Pakistan was well aware of India's capability and that Indian armed forces were prepared to wipe out Pakistan's forward brigades.
"There are two parts to it. The main pressure on Pakistan was diplomatic and political. But there was also a military posture, the way he (Pakistan MP Ayaz Sadiq) is saying that 'his legs (General Bajwa) were shaking and all', it is because the military posture was very offensive of all the three services, Army, Navy, Air Force," Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa (retired) said.
"And God forbid had they hit our installations on February 27, we were also in a position to wipe out their forward brigades. They know our capability. Basically, if this thing is there in their mind that we are likely to strike, they first look at how their own military is doing. The American President Theodore Roosevelt used to say, 'Speak softly and carry a big stick'. So the big stick was the military," he added.
Former IAF chief's remark comes a day after PML-N leader Ayaz Sadiq recounted the tension within the Pakistan government in February last year. Sadiq, who was the Speaker of the National Assembly during the PML-N government, said in Parliament that Foreign Minister Qureshi had said in an important meeting that if Abhinandan was not released, India would attack Pakistan 'at 9 PM that night' and 'for God's sake we should let him go'.
The 37-year-old IAF pilot was captured by the Pakistani Army on February 27 after his MiG-21 Bison jet was shot down in a dogfight with Pakistani jets during aerial combat. Before his jet was hit, Abhinandan downed an F-16 fighter of Pakistan. The Imran Khan government on March 1 released the IAF pilot.
In the early hours of February 26, 2019, the IAF jets bombed the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) terror camps in Balakot in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa of Pakistan and avenged the Pulwama terrorist attack that claimed the lives of 40 CRPF personnel.