NEW DELHI: Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, who yesterday offered to receive Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman when he returns home from captivity in Pakistan, told NDTV he has not heard from the Centre and won’t be going to Wagah to receive the Indian Air Force pilot.
Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman will reportedly be handed over to India at the Wagah border today afternoon. “We are expecting him today. A team of the Indian Air Force will be here to receive him and take him away,” Amritsar deputy commissioner Shiv Dular Singh Dhillon told NDTV.
Pakistan agreed to release the Indian Air Force pilot – whose MiG-21 Bison was shot down two days ago in an air skirmish in which a Pakistani F-16 was also blown out of the sky by an Indian missile – in keeping with the spirit of the Geneva Convention that protects prisoners of war.
“We are very happy to know that our pilot is returning. I hope he is not too badly injured because normally when you bail out (from fighter jet) you get some injuries, but from what we saw in photographs he seems alright,” the chief minister told NDTV today.
In a statement, Amarinder Singh said he came to the conclusion that his visit “might contravene the protocols laid out for such cases”.
“When any PoW (prisoner of war) from the 1965 or 1971 war came back, he was first sent for medical examination, followed by a debriefing, which was likely to be the case with Wing Commander Abhinandan (Varthaman) too,” the chief minister said. “In the circumstances, it would be more proper not to go to the Wagah border to receive the officer,” said Amarinder Singh, who had been camping in the border areas for the past three days as part of confidence-building exercise.
On what should be India’s next step, Amarinder Singh said “it’s too soon” to say anything. “As far as we are concerned, we are a border state. Nobody in Punjab wants war, and I don’t think anyone in the country wants war. But how they (India and Pakistan) de-escalate and what they are intending to do are up to them. I can’t comment on that, but we are happy to have Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman back,” the chief minister said.
On Thursday, Amarinder Singh tweeted the father of Wing Commander Varthaman and him are alumni of the National Defence Academy. “Dear Narendra Modi ji, I’m touring the border areas of Punjab and I’m presently in Amritsar. Came to know that Pakistan has decided to release Abhinandan Varthaman from Wagha. It will be a honour for me to go and receive him, as he and his father are alumnus of the NDA as I am,” Amarinder Singh had tweeted yesterday.