Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, who was captured after Pakistan Air Force (PAF) downed his MiG-21 aircraft during a stand-off with intruding Indian jets in February, has returned to the cockpit.

Responding to Indian Air Force’s (IAF) violation of Pakistani airspace on February 26, PAF had hit back by sending fighters to strike Indian targets the following day. In the pursuit, a PAF fighter jet had downed at least one Indian MiG-21 aircraft and captured Abhinandan, who had ejected and landed within Pakistani territory.

He was handed over to India by Pakistani authorities as a goodwill gesture within 60 hours of the standoff.


“Both of us have two things in common. First, both of have ejected and second, both of us have fought Pakistanis. I fought in Kargil, he fought after Balakot. Third, I’ve flown with his father,” IAF chief BS Dhanoa, who flew his last sortie with Abhinandan, said Monday.

The flight came after the wing commander was recently cleared to fly after treatment for injuries sustained in action. Earlier, in an ironical development, Abhinandan was conferred with the Vir Chakra, India’s third-highest wartime medal, on its Independence Day.