New Delhi: In a video clip that made the rounds on social media on Saturday, Indian Air Force (IAF) pilot Abhinandan Varthaman is seen engaging in friendly conversation with his colleagues in Jammu and Kashmir. The almost two minute-long video is undated and it is unclear when it was shot.
The clip shows several of Varthaman's colleagues milling around him to take photographs and selfies from several different angles amid slogans of extolling the country, the armed forces, and the IAF.
The pilot is seen addressing other members of the Air Force and said the photographs clicked earlier were not for his colleagues but for their family members who had prayed for his health.
"All these photographs are not for you but for your families I could not meet. All of you and your families prayed for my health," he said.
Varthaman was captured by the Pakistani Army on February 27 after his MiG-21 Bison jet was shot down in a dogfight with Pakistani jets during an aerial combat. He downed an F-16 fighter of Pakistan before his plane was hit.
The skirmish took place a day after India conducted cross-border air strikes at Balakot on February 26. Varthaman, who shot down a Pakistani F-16 jet, was captured and remained in custody across the border for two days.
In a “goodwill gesture”, Varthaman was released by Pakistan and came back to India on March 1.
After his return, he had gone back to his squadron in Srinagar though he was then on a four-week sick leave. According to army sources, Varthaman had preferred to stay with his squadron in Srinagar than going back to his family home in Chennai while on leave.
Last month, the IAF transferred Varthaman out of the Srinagar airbase where he was posted amid concerns over his security in the Kashmir Valley. He was shifted to an important airbase in the Western sector along the Pakistan border.
The IAF had also reportedly recommended his name for the Vir Chakra, a wartime gallantry medal, for shooting down an F-16 fighter jet in a skirmish with the Pakistan Air Force.