Pakistan Prime Minster Imran Khan has announced that captured IAF pilot Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman will be released tomorrow as a gesture of peace and the “first step” to open negotiations with India.
The surprise announcement during a joint session of Parliament came barely an hour after Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said that Prime Minister Khan is ready to talk to his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi to de-escalate Indo-Pak tensions.
Earlier in the day, the United States, the United Kingdom and France moved a fresh proposal in the United Nations Security Council to designate Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) chief Masood Azhar as a global terrorist. Multiple countries, including Japan, Canada and Australia, have called for India and Pakistan to de-escalate tensions.
After the Pakistan Air Force violated the Indian airspace on Wednesday and downed a MiG 21 ‘Bison’ and captured its pilot Wing Commander Abhinandan, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan called on India to come to the dialogue table and discuss any concerns it had around the February 14 Pulwama terror attack by Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) that claimed the lives of 40 CRPF personnel.
In the early hours of Tuesday, India carried out air strikes on a major terror camp operated by the JeM in Pakistan’s Balakot after the Pulwama terror attack.
A look at how IAF pilots prepare for survival after capture
Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan’s announcement that Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman would be returned to India came a day after New Delhi acknowledged one of its pilots was missing after an “aerial engagement” with Pakistan’s air force on Tuesday. Pakistan announced his arrest, prompting an outpouring of concern for his well being that found expression in the Twitter hashtag #BringAbhinandanBack.
Wing Commander Varthaman’s injuries were clear in videos that surfaced soon after his capture, which were remarkable for the impeccable manners he showed and his polite refusals to share more information than he could. In one of the clips, he said he had been treated well by Pakistani military officers (who he said rescued him from a mob “and from soldiers”). A disturbing account of his ordeal published by the Dawn newspaper said he was roughed up by youths before the army took him into custody.
How do Air Force pilots prepare for survival when they are captured, like Abhinandan Varthaman was? Air Marshal (Retd) Anil Chopra told IndiaToday.in most aircrew in the force “go through a Jungle and Snow survival course where they go through theoretical and practical training in realistic conditions and use only what they will have in their survival pack”.
“Within the survival pack is a list of items and for some items usage instructions,” he said.
The Dawn newspaper put out photos of documents Pakistan says were recovered from Wing Commander Varthaman — they included a pink booklet titled “Survival On Land”. Social media users have shared the picture.
Air Marshal Chopra confirmed that he had seen the image and that it was authentic.
What about Wing Commander Abhinandan’s repeated refusals to share more information than he could? What kind of information is an Air Force pilot required to keep confidential in the event of capture?
“The Geneva convention clearly spells out what all a prisoner of war needs to give out. Abhinandan has correctly given that limited information as can be seen in the video,” said Air Marshal Chopra.