Lahore: The handing over of pilot Abhinandan Varthaman to India at Wagah was delayed on Friday as he was asked to record a statement on camera by Pakistani authorities before he was allowed to cross the border, official sources said.
Facing backlash for releasing the seemingly edited video, the Pakistan government later took it down from its official Twitter account, Radio Pakistan. It was not clear whether he was made to record the video under duress as the video had several jump cuts indicating that it had been edited heavily, apparently to fit Pakistani propaganda.
One Twitter user noticed that24-second minute 24 second long video, there were 17 cuts and jumps, further urging people to not share the video.
Also, the Indian Air Force (IAF) said that Varthaman shot down an F-16 but there is no mention of that in the video message recorded before his release.
At 8.30 pm (local) time, the Pakistan government released the pilot's video message to the local media in which he said as to how he was captured and praised the "professionalism" of the Pakistani military. Varthaman crossed over the Wagah border post at 9.20 pm.
"Recording of his video message caused delay in his handing over," a source said. In the video message, Varthaman said he entered Pakistan's space to "find a target" but his aircraft was shot down.
India has maintained that Varthaman's plane was downed when IAF planes foiled an attempt by Pakistan Air Force to target Indian military installations in Jammu and Kashmir on February 27, a day after New Delhi had conducted counter-terror operations in Pakistan's Balakot. He bailed out of the aircraft but drifted to Pakistan-occupied Kashmir where he was detained by the Pakistan Army.
Pakistan had also released a video of the IAF pilot sipping tea and talking to a Pakistani military official on Wednesday, hours after his capture. In that video too, Abhinandan said he was being treated well and that he was ‘quite impressed’ by the Pakistani army officials.
Experts News18 spoke to say the video releases were part of Pakistani psychological operations to set the narrative amid the conflict.
“It’s definitely psy-ops in the sense that why should you put out this video? You’re only trying to show that you’re treating him well. In the first set of videos that came out where he was physically manhandled by some locals. Pakistan would have got some criticism over it. They are playing the ‘responsible country’ card and showed that they are treating our pilot well,” retired Lt General DS Hooda, the former commanding-in-chief of the Northern Command, had told News18.