NEW DELHI — IAF Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman is in Pakistan’s custody after his MiG-21 Bison was brought down in Pakistan administered Kashmir post an engagement with Pakistani Air Force jets yesterday morning.
Since then a video of him being roughed up by mob while blindfolded has gone viral, as have two others showing him being interrogated and subsequently claiming that he has been treated well by the Pakistani forces and “will not change” his statement “if” he returns to India.
In one of the videos, Varthaman alludes to the Geneva Convention when he only disclosed his service number and identifies himself as a Hindu and, when pressed for more details, calmly says, “I’m sorry sir…that’s all I’m supposed to tell you.”
The 34-year-old Wing Commander is an alumnus of the National Defence Academy (NDA), Khadakwasla and has been a fighter pilot for 16 years. He was an accomplished Sukhoi-30 fighter pilot before being assigned to the MiG-21 Bison squadron. He is the son of Air Marshal S Varthaman, a decorated officer who reportedly retired after serving as the Eastern Air Command chief.
Ironically, Varthaman senior had been a consultant for Mani Ratnam’s film Kaatru Veliyidai that depicted an Indian Air Force Squadron Leader taken prisoner by Pakistan during the Kargil War.
Wing Commander Varthaman is reportedly married with two children. His brother, too, serves in the Indian Air Force. He had appeared on a TV show where he claimed that bad attitude is what made a good fighter pilot.
The Ministry of External Affairs yesterday summoned Pakistan’s Acting High Commissioner, Syed Haider Shah to the South Block and registered a strong-worded objection to Pakistan’s ‘unwarranted advances into Indian airspace’ as well as Varthaman’s arrest.
According to reports, the MEA has made it clear to Pakistan that it expects safe and immediate return of its aviator, and Pakistan will be well-advised to ensure that no harm comes to him.