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Praise for Indian air force pilot's courage under fire

March 2, 2019

India is proud of the courage Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, the Indian Air Force pilot, who was captured by Pakistan, showed under pressure.

He has been admired for his presence of mind and calm while in enemy territory. In videos circulated by Pakistani social media accounts, he is shown blindfolded and hurt. He gives his name, service number and religion and says: "That is all I am supposed to tell you."

Varthaman also asks his interrogator,

May I request a little bit of information. Am I with the Pakistani Army? - Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman

Varthaman is the son of a senior Air Force official who is now retired and has a brother in the Air Force as well. He fell into Pakistani territory while chasing a Pakistani F-16 jet. Varthaman was forced to eject and landed into the Pakistani side of Line of Control, where he was captured.

In one of the videos in circulation, the 34-year-old officer can be seen being dragged. The videos were taken off as Pakistan was accused of violating the Geneva Convention. India called it "Pakistan's vulgar display of an injured personnel of the Indian Air Force in violation of all norms of International Humanitarian Law and the Geneva Convention."

Later another video showed the pilot having tea, looking calm. When a voice asked him if he had been treated well, he said yes and added, "I would like to put this on record that I will not change my statement if I go back to my country also. The officers of the Pakistani army have looked after me very well, starting from the Captain who rescued me from the mob and from the soldiers and thereafter the officers of the unit to which I was taken to. This is what I would expect my army to behave as and I am very impressed by the Pakistani army."

Varthaman was also asked where in India he is from and whether he is married. He said, "Am I supposed to tell you this? ...I am from down South".

When asked if he liked the tea, he said. "tea is fantastic, thank you." When asked which aircraft he was flying, he refused to answer and said, "I am not supposed to tell you this but I am sure you have found the wreckage". He also refused to answer questions about his mission.

The videos and photographs fuelled a wave of messages on social media and hashtags like #BringBackAbhinandan and #Abhinandanmyhero.

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