NEW DELHI: Abhinandan Varthaman, being returned to India by Pakistan through the Red Cross via the Wagah border around noon on Friday, comes from a family of long tradition with the Air Force. His grandfather was part of the air force in the Second World War. Abhinandan’s wife is retired Squadron Leader Tanwi Marwaha.

The Wing Commander’s father Simhakutty Varthaman is a retired Air Marshal. 

Abhinandan’s mother is Sobha, a doctor by profession. The father-mother couple lived in the Selayur Jail Vayu Vihar defence colony in Chennai. The parents remained fully composed after news of their son’s capture by the Pakistani forces was known. They left Chennai on Thursday for Delhi by flight to receive Abhinandan on his return from Pakistan by around noon. From Delhi they were to proceed to Amritsar on the Wagah border.

It was Abhinandan, piloting a Mig21 Bison fighter jet, who shot down a F16 of the Pakistani air formation. The Pakistani fighter jet shot Abhinandan’s MiG21 as well. The Pakistani formation consisted of eight F16 fighter jets, as also four each JF17 and Mirage5 jets – altogether 14 fighter jets. However, only three F16s crossed the LoC and entered the Indian territory. India faced them with  two each MiG21 Bisons and Mirage200s and four Sukhoi30 MKI.

Indian air force sensed the approach of the Pakistani fighter jets only after they reached a distance of 10km from the LoC. This was around 9.45am. The fighter jets that were doing the morning drills along the LoC immediately spread a defence. But, the Pakistani jets entered the Rajouri sector and attempted to drop bombs on Indian military establishments, but this was thwarted. One report said parts of the splinters from the dropped bombs fell on the compound of a military establishment. India later said Pakistan’s aim was to destroy the military establishments on the Indian side, which was thwarted. India, in the process, lost one MiG21, piloted by Abhinandan; and Pakistan lost one F16 which was shot down by Abhinandan.

Wing Commander Abhinandan aboard a MiG21 chased an F16 to across the LoC, and shot it. As his jet was shot, Abhinandan ejected safely, and landed in the PoK. Locals surrounded him. Abhinandan asked them whether he landed in India or Pakistan. They said “In India.” He raised the Jai India slogan, when the locals raised Jai Pakistan slogan. Abhinandan quickly took out his revolver and shot in the air. Pakistani soldiers later reached the place and took the wing commander in to custody.

F16s had been given to Pakistan by the Americans as part of an agreement to fight anti-US terrorists and also for use in defence purposes – and not in aggression, as Pakistan did on September 27. With India producing material proof of the use of F16 by Pakistan for its offensive against India, the US is likely to take up this matter with Pakistan. -IHN-NN

Simhakutty, father of Abhinandan

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