Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, who became the face of the tense military confrontation between India and Pakistan, has been shifted out of Srinagar and posted to a frontline air base in the western sector, official sources said Saturday.
It is also learnt that the IAF was going to recommend Varthaman’s name for Vir Chakra, the coveted wartime gallantry medal, which is the third highest after the Paramvir Chakra and the Mahavir Chakra. Varthaman, who was captured by Pakistan on February 27 during an aerial combat with the Indian Air Force (IAF), had returned to his squadron in Srinagar last month though he was on a four-week sick leave.
Orders have been issued for his transfer from Srinagar to another base in the western sector, sources said, terming the transfer as a ‘routine one.’ The IAF pilot went on leave in mid-March after security agencies completed a nearly two-week debriefing following his return from Pakistan. Sources said a medical board will review his fitness to help the IAF top brass decide whether he can return to the fighter cockpit as desired by him.
Varthaman was captured by the Pakistani Army on February 27 after his MiG-21 Bison jet was shot down in a dog fight with Pakistani jets during aerial combat. Before his jet was hit, he downed an F-16 fighter of Pakistan. Varthaman was released on the night of March 1 by Pakistan. After he was captured, Varthaman showed courage and grace in handling the most difficult circumstances for which he was praised by politicians, strategic affairs experts, ex-servicemen, celebrities and people in general. Tensions between India and Pakistan escalated after Indian fighters bombed terror group Jaish-e-Mohammed’s biggest training camp near Balakot, deep inside Pakistan on February 26. Pakistan retaliated by attempting to target Indian military installations the next day. However, the IAF thwarted their plans. The Indian strike on the JeM camp came 12 days after the terror outfit claimed responsibility for a suicide attack on a CRPF convoy in Kashmir, killing 40 soldiers.