Abhinandan Varthaman, who has 16 years of experience, is from the southern city of Chennai (formerly known as Madras). His father, Air Marshal Simhakutty Varthaman, worked with decorated Tamil film maker Mani Ratnam, acting as an adviser for his 2017 film, Kaatru Veliyidai, which was set against the backdrop of the 1999 Kargil conflict between India and Pakistan. Mr Varthaman was the air marshal at the time. The Kargil conflict was the last time an Indian solider was captured and held by Pakistani forces. Group Captain K Nachiketa, who was also an air force pilot, was in Pakistan’s custody for eight days after his jet crashed in their territory. He is now retired and lives in the southern city of Hyderabad.
Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman became the face of cross-border tensions after crashing in Pakistani territory last week. Hailed as a national hero, men across India have rushed to emulate his characteristic mustache in apparent tribute. The look, a mix of a classic gunslinger with traits of the mutton chop beard, is now known throughout India as the “Abhinandan.”
Abhinandan Varthaman Full Biography and Profile
Abhinandan Varthaman is a wing-commander in the Indian Air Force. In the 2019 India-Pakistan standoff, he was held for three days under captivity in Pakistan after his aircraft was shot down in an aerial dogfight.
Early life and career
Abhinandan’s family hails from Thirupanamoor, a village near Kanchipuram. His father, Mr. Simhakutty Varthaman was retired as an Air Marshal in the Indian Air Force while his mother is a doctor by profession. Abhinandan is married to a retired IAF Squadron leader and lives in Chennai.
A graduate of the National Defence Academy, he joined the Indian Air Force as a fighter pilot in 2004 and was trained at the IAF centres in Bathinda and Halwara. He was a Su-30 MKI fighter pilot before being assigned to the MiG-21 Bison squadron..
Abhinandan Varthaman whose fighter jet was shot down over the Pakistan-administered area of Kashmir says he was “saved” by the Pakistani army after being chased by “agitated” bystanders.
Abhinandan Varthaman, 35, who has been handed back to India in what Pakistan called a “goodwill gesture”, also accused the Indian media of blowing up “every little thing into a big issue”.
In a video filmed while he was still in Pakistan, Mr Varthaman described what happened after he ejected and parachuted down to the ground.
“I had a pistol with me and there were a number of people chasing me,” he said. “They were agitated.
“Then two Pakistani military personnel came and saved me.”
He added that a “captain came and saved me from the people and didn’t let them harm me”. He was given “first aid and taken to a hospital”.
In the run-up to his release, people celebrated in the streets of New Delhi.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted: “Welcome Home Wing Commander Abhinandan! The nation is proud of your exemplary courage.”
One of India’s biggest film stars, Shah Rukh Khan, said: “Ur bravery makes us stronger. Eternally grateful.”
Mr Varthaman, who joined the Indian air force in 2004, was flying a Russian-made MiG-21 when he was shot down on Wednesday.
The wing commander landed close to the village of Horra’n in the Bhimber district of Pakistan-occupied Kashmir, about four miles (6km) from the Line of Control – a de-facto border in the disputed region.
He is the son of a retired air marshal, Simhakutty Varthaman, and a doctor. The father-of-one’s wife Thanvi is a former squadron leader in the Indian air force.
He added in his video statement: “The Pakistani army officers treated me very well – they are a professional army. I have spent time with the Pakistan army and I’m very impressed.
“The Indian media blows up every little thing into a big issue. They add fire to everything and people get influenced.”
The handover went ahead despite cross-border attacks across Kashmir continuing for a fourth day.
Thousands of Indian and Pakistani soldiers faced off along the Line of Control.
Tensions have been running high since Indian aircraft entered Pakistani airspace late last month and carried out what India called a pre-emptive strike against militants behind a suicide bombing in Indian-controlled Kashmir, which killed 40 soldiers.
Pakistan shot down two planes in retaliation on Wednesday and captured Mr Varthaman.
Abhinandan Varthaman undergoes debriefings by security agencies
No bugs have been found implanted in Indian Air Force pilot Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman during an MRI scan, a source said on Sunday.
The security agencies were understood to have been checking for any bugs which could be present in Wing Commander Varthaman, who was returned by Pakistan on Friday.
The scan showed an injury in his lower spine which could have happened following his ejection from the MiG-21 fighter plane after a dogfight with Pakistani F-16 jets on Wednesday, the source said. He also has a rib injury due to an assault by the Pakistani locals soon after he landed in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir after his aircraft was shot down.
The pilot also underwent debriefings by security agencies. He conveyed to the IAF brass that he wants to return to the cockpit as soon as possible, officials said.
His health condition is being monitored by a group of doctors at the Army’s Research and Referral hospital.
He will be the first recipient of the ‘Bhagwan Mahavir Ahimsa Puraskar’ instituted by the Akhil Bharatiya Digambar Jain Mahasamiti, a functionary of the organisation said. It will be presented on April 17, on Mahavir Jayanthi.
Abhinandan Varthaman wants to return to cockpit
Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman wants to return to the cockpit as soon as possible. Citing senior Indian Air Force (IAF) commanders and doctors treating him, news agency PTI reported, that Abhinandan is eager to flay again. The report also said that the MiG-21 pilot who became the face of the military face-off between India and Pakistan is in high spirits despite the harassment he was reportedly put through by Pakistani agencies including the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).
“The efforts have been to ensure that he returns to the cockpit soon,” PTI cited a military official as saying. Varthaman, who was captured by Pakistan after he shot down an F-16 fighter jet across the Line of Control (LoC) in Pakistan-occupied-Kashmir (PoK), was returned to India on Friday evening- two days after his capture. He reached the national capital at about 11.45 pm, almost two hours after entering India by crossing the Wagah-Attari border.
On Saturday, he underwent a thorough medical check-up at the Air Force Central Medical Establishment (AFCME) and later brought to Indian Army’s Research and Referral (R&R). Later during the day on Saturday, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and Air chief Marshal BS Dhanoa met him separately and commended him for his valour. In a number of videos released by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), the brave officer was seen gracefully responding to the agencies’ questions.
Tensions between India and Pakistan escalated after the February 14 Pulwama suicide attack which resulted in the death of 40 CRPF personnel. Following the attack, Indian Air Force carried out a ‘pre-emptive’ non-military strike on JeM training camps across the Line of Control. Pakistan’s attempts to target military establishments in India a day later were thwarted by the IAF. Varthaman ejected into PoK during the operation.
IAF pilot Abhinandan Varthaman to be awarded with Bhagwan Mahavir Ahimsa Puraskar
Indian Air Force Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman will be the first recipient of the ‘Bhagwan Mahavir Ahimsa Puraskar’ instituted by the Akhil Bharatiya Digambar Jain Mahasamiti, a functionary of the organisation said Sunday.
Varthaman, piloting a Mig-21 Bison, shot down a Pakistan Air Force F-16 with an R-73 air-to-air missile in a dogfight on February 27 before his aircraft took a hit and he had to eject.
He was captured by Pakistan forces soon after and was released on March 1. The award for the fighter pilot was announced in New Delhi by the organisation’s chairperson Manidra Jain, said its Maharashtra chapter convener Paras Lohade in Nashik.
The award, instituted this year, carries a cash prize of Rs 2.51 lakh, a memento and a citation and will be presented to Varthaman on April 17, coinciding with Mahavir Jayanti, Lohade said.
- Abhinandan Varthaman Full Biography and Profile