IAF Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman reportedly underwent mental harassment during his stay in Pakistan. He crossed over to India through the Attari-Wagah border after spending nearly 60 hours in Pakistan captivity.
Nirmala Sitharaman met Varthaman at the Army’s Research and Referral hospital, a day after Pakistan released him in a “gesture of peace” amid heightened tensions between the two countries.
In a tweet, the defence minister said she met Varthaman and his family to “commend him on his valour, express the nation’s gratitude for his selfless service, and wish him a speedy recovery”.
A defence ministry spokesperson said Sitharaman conveyed to the pilot the sentiment of the nation and appreciated his “impeccable combat skills as well as calmness in adversity”.
“Sources: After returning from Pakistan, Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman has informed that though he was not physically tortured by the Pakistanis; he went through a lot of mental harassment,” tweeted news agency ANI.
Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal Dhanoa and several top officials of the IAF also met Varthaman separately.
During a separate meeting with the Air Chief, Varthaman briefed him about his detention in Pakistan, officials said. Varthaman was expected to be debriefed by the IAF on his detention in Pakistan, which is yet to take place.
The Pilot was captured by Pakistani army on February 27 after his MiG 21 Bison went down during an aerial engagement with Pakistani jets. Before his plane was hit, Varthaman shot down an F-16 of Pakistan air force.
The IAF pilot was first taken to the Air Force Central Medical Establishment (AFCME), a compact and specialised medical evaluation centre for aircrew of all the three services, on his arrival home. Later he was brought to the Army’s Research and Referral hospital.