IAF wing commander Abhinandan Varthaman, who was brought to Delhi after Pakistan released him through the Attari-Wagah border late on Friday (March 1), went through “a lot of mental harassment” in the neighbouring country, news agency ANI quoted a source as saying.
ANI also quoted the source as saying that Varthaman has said that he was not physically tortured in Pakistan.
The IAF pilot was captured by Pakistani authorities on February 27 after his MiG 21 Bison went down during a dogfight with Pakistani jets. But before his plane was hit, he shot down an F-16 of Pakistan air force.
According to a report in The Press Trust of India, Varthaman on Saturday briefly apprised Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and Air Chief Marshal B S Dhanoa about the mental trauma.
The defence minister had met the Wing Commander at the Army’s Research and Referral hospital here, a day after Pakistan released him in its bid to scale down heightened tensions between the two countries.
In a tweet, the defence minister said she met Varthaman and his family to “commend him on his valour, express the nation’s gratitude for his selfless service, and wish him a speedy recovery”.
Varthaman’s wife Sqn Ldr Tanvi Marwah (retd), seven-year-old son, sister Aditi and a few senior military officials were present in the meeting, PTI quoted its sources as saying.
A defence ministry spokesperson said Sitharaman conveyed to the pilot the sentiment of the nation and appreciated his “impeccable combat skills as well as calmness in adversity”.
He is mentally strong and remains in high spirits despite the harassment he suffered in Pakistan, official sources were quoted as saying by PTI.
Varthaman is undergoing a series of medical tests as part of the “cooling down” process and it is expected to continue till Sunday. Once the health check-up is over, debriefing sessions will be arranged for him, officials said.
He arrived in the national capital around 11:45 PM on Friday and soon after he was taken to the Air Force Central Medical Establishment (AFCME), a compact and specialised medical evaluation centres for aircrew of all the three services.
When he crossed over to India Friday night, his right eye above his handlebar moustache appeared swollen.
After he was captured, Varthaman showed courage and grace in the most difficult circumstances for which he was praised by politicians, strategic affairs experts, ex-servicemen, celebrities and others.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Narendra Modi welcomed the return of Varthaman, saying the nation is proud of his exemplary courage. “Welcome Home Wing Commander Abhinandan! The nation is proud of your exemplary courage. Our armed forces are an inspiration for 130 crore Indians,” tweeted Modi Friday night.
(With Inputs from agencies)