March 1, 2019
posted by Mathews Jacob
For the entire nation, today’s hero is Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman. He is due to be released today and he is expected to walk over the border at Wagah somewhere in the evening. All credits go to the international leaders actively engaged in averting an escalation in the situation between India and Pakistan. In last 24 hours, several visits to the office of Pakistan PM Imran Khan by diplomats of U.S, Saudi Arabia and UAE took place. Telephone calls between these offices were relentless. All responsible persons of the embassies of these nations at Islamabad played all diplomatic cards they could come up with to mitigate the situation. Mr. Antonio Guterres, Spokesperson for United Nations Secretary General Stephane Dujarric, welcomed Pakistan’s step to release the captured Indian Pilot on Friday as a “Very Much Welcomed Step”.
Many eminent persons of the world urged Imran Khan Government to release the captured Pilot as early as possible as a gesture of the Pak government’s commitment to peace in the region. Fatima Bhutto, the granddaughter of former PM of Pakistan Zulfikar Ali Bhutto wrote in New York Times: “We have spent a lifetime at war. I do not want to see Pakistani soldiers die. I do not want to see Indian soldiers die. We cannot be a subcontinent of orphans”. I am sure, in this matter Fatima Bhutto is not alone. I have had many Pakistani friends when I was in Saudi Arabia and Qatar. Barring some aged goons, most of them were young, energetic, enthusiastic youth wanted to see peace prevailing between the two nations. And, I think the greatest pressure on Pak government not to take any foolish steps is from the educated youth of the nation.
Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman was the Pilot of a Mig 21 ‘Bison’ that was part of a fleet of Migs scrambled to encounter a bunch of Pakistan’s F-16 Fighting Falcon aircrafts spotted violating the line of control on Indian Air Force's radar screens.The F-16 fleets were heading towards some vital airbases and army bases in Indian territory when the Mig-21 aircrafts encountered them. Seeing that they are detected and defended from the Indian soil, the F-16s somersaulted and fled to home sky. But the Bison jet followed the fleeing F-16s to PoK (Pakistan occupied Kashmir) on the other side of LoC (Line of Control) daringly. At a point of time of this action, the Mig piloted by Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman was caught in between two hostile F-16s. Even when he was in the enemy’s airspace between two enemy aircrafts that are well known to be much superior to the Mig aircraft he was flying, he did not lose his presence of mind. Disregarding his vulnerability and the inferiority of the machine, he continued his fight and downed one F-16 that was chasing him. But the other F-16 fired at him and his Mig started showing toms of losing control. Following the emergency operating procedure to be adopted in such a situation, he pressed the ‘Eject’ button and his seat in the cockpit separated from the aircraft. In a few fractions of seconds, the Mig perished in fire. The parachute attached with the ejected seat inflated and he landed safely. It was only when the locals gathered around him he realized that he was on enemy’s soil.
There are many versions on the web about what happened after his landing on Pakistani soil. Government of India asked Youtube to remove most of the unauthenticated videos. We may have to wait till Abhinandan himself come out in public explaining his experience. Certainly, it would be only after the debriefing that may take a few days or even a week. Nevertheless, it should be mentioned that it is high time for India to antiquate these Russian built jets- Mig-21s, as they are very old and totally outdated. Mig-21 Bison is the improved version of the original Mig-21. But they have had their innings and, India needs to spend lavishly to acquire modern fighter aircrafts. It's a matter of pity that we continue to send our young air warriors with such oudated aircrafts to face an enemy equipped with much superior aircrafts. It is a scenario where we have equipment of inferior quality and manpower of superb quality. Airmen like Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman are assets of the nation. The Government should ensure proper equipment at their disposal to make the utmost use of the high quality manpower we have. Meanwhile, Welcome home Wing Commander.