Indian Air Force promotes Abhinandan despite capture in Pakistan

Abhinandan was arrested after his aircraft was shot down. Source: Hindustan Times.

NEW DELHI: The Indian Air Force has promoted Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman whose fighter jet was shot down by Pakistani forces after violating airspace during aerial combat in February 2019.

According to Indian media, the Indian Air Force approved the rank of Group Captain for Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman on Wednesday which will be received after the process is completed.

A group captain is equivalent to a colonel in the Indian army. After getting a new rank, an official is able to wear it once there is a vacancy for the position. The air force pilot was currently posted in north-east India.

Abhinandan was arrested on February 27, 2019, after his MiG-21 Bison aircraft was shot down by the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) upon violating Pakistani airspace after a purported ‘surgical strike.’ 

He was initially captured by locals in Azad Kashmir before being taken into custody by Pakistan Army personnel. Videos of his capture showed army soldiers and officers intervening forcefully to save him from a crowd of citizens.

A wide cross-section of the Pakistani citizenry had subsequently called for him to be treated with respect and dignity. He was later handed over in a gesture of peace to India a day later at the Wagah border on March 1, 2019.

Prime Minister Imran Khan had promised his return and extended an olive branch to Indian counterpart Narendra Modi in a move widely praised for attempting to de-escalate soaring tensions.

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