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IAF pilot says he was mentally harassed in Pakistan

March 4, 2019

Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, the Indian Air Force (IAF), who is now back in India safe, has said that Pakistani authorities did not physically torture him during the nearly 60 hours he spent in their custody. However, he has said that he was subjected to considerable mental harassment.

Varthaman was captured by the Pakistani military after his fighter jet, MiG-21 Bison was shot down during a dogfight with F-16 jets from Pakistan. Pakistani officials say that while Wing Commander Varthaman was initially assaulted by local residents upon landing in their territory, he was treated in accordance with the Geneva Convention while in custody.

Before his release, the pilot was forced to record a video statement praising the Pakistani military. The clip showed the Wing Commander saying that the Pakistani Army saved him from the mob. This delayed his release by three hours. The pilot was handed over to Indian authorities a day after Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan announced that they would return him in a "gesture of peace".

There is much curiosity about Wing Commander Varthaman, who grew up in Air Force bases around India. His mother is a well-known doctor who has served in conflict zones and his father is an accomplished fighter pilot who was involved in the Kargil war and served the Indian Air Force for nearly 40 years.

His mother Shobha Varthaman spent years providing medical care to people in countries affected by armed conflict, epidemics and natural disasters. She is a specialist in anaesthesia, intensive care and pain management.

Air Marshal Varthaman played a important role during 1999 Kargil conflict when he was the chief operations officer (COO) of the Gwalior airbase.

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