Abhinandan Varthaman to return today, India plans hero welcome

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Abhinandan Varthaman set to return, Watch Live Coverage: Good morning everyone. This is a big day as India awaits return of Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, captured by Pakistan during an aerial combat. IAF Pilot wing commander is expected to return through Wagah border. A delegation of IAF team will be there to receive him. Reports suggest Punjab CM Captain Amrinder Singh will also be there.

The United States on Friday asked Pakistan to take action against Jaish-e-Mohammed and its leadership. Nathan Sales, Ambassador-at-Large and Coordinator for Counter-terrorism, US Dept of State, said: The United States has designated JeM (Jaish-e-Mohammed) & its leadership under our domestic authorities to cut off the flow of money & deprive them of the resources they need to commit attack like the one we witnessed a couple of weeks ago. It is important to amplify those unilateral efforts we are taking under our own laws with multilateral affords. We call on other countries to follow our lead and we call on the international community as a whole to follow our lead in designating the organisation and its leadership. We call on international community to designate Jaish E Mohammad & its leadership.

10.01 IST: According to reports, Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman will reach the joint check post at Attari-Wagah border at around 2 PM. India’s air attache to Pakistan, Group Captain JD Kurian, will accompany Abhinandan to India.

9.58 IST: UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has also welcomed Pakistan’s offer to release Abhinandan Varthaman. His Spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said: “The report of the release of the Indian pilot by the Pakistani authorities would be very much a welcome step. We would encourage both parties to do whatever they can to de-escalate the situation.” Guterres has been in contact “with both sides at various levels”, Dujarric said, while declining to identify the contacts.

9.50 IST: Meanwhile, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh has also expressed his desire to receive Abhinandan at the Attari-Wagah border. Amarinder tweeted to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and said he will be honoured to receive Abhinandan.

9.40 IST: A large number of people from all walks of life are flocking to the Attari-Wagah border to welcome the hero IAF pilot. Meanwhile, our reporter Surbhi Sharma, who is present at the location, caught up with some of the locals who are celebrating with Dhols – a popular Indian drum.

9.35 IST: Meanwhile, the Attari-Wagah border is getting all decked up to welcome Abhinandan. Here are some latest pictures.

9.15 IST: Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthman’s parents took a late night flight from Chennai to New Delhi as they get ready to welcome their son back from Pakistan.

8:55 am: Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman likely to reach Wagah border at 2 pm: Sources

The announcement about Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman — taken prisoner a day earlier — came hours after India demanded his release and ruled out talks on the issue, saying Pakistan cannot use this issue for a deal.

Khan said countries were ruined because of miscalculation and alleged that there was a “war hysteria” in India.

“I’m afraid there might be a miscalculation. War is not a solution. If India takes any action, we will have to retaliate,” he said at the session called to discuss the rising tensions with India.

“The only purpose of our strike (on India on Wednesday) was to demonstrate our capability and will,” he said. “We did not want to inflict any casualty on India as we wanted to act in a responsible manner.”

He said he tried to call Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the telephone on Wednesday because “escalation is not in our interests nor in India’s”.

The 35-year-old Wing Commander was captured by Pakistan on Wednesday after his MiG was shot down and it fell in Pakistani territory during a dogfight.

Earlier in the day, India said that Pakistan needed to create a conducive atmosphere for talks by taking credible and verifiable action against cross-border terrorism emanating from its soil and terrorist proxies.

Government sources said India had told the international community that it was Pakistan which escalated matters by targeting military installations and what India did was counter-terrorism action as Pakistan had not shown any inclination to act against terrorists and their proxies after the February 14 Pulwama attack and the claim by the Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM) was ignored.

They also referred to Khan’s statement on Wednesday that two Indian pilots were captured and later corrected it to one, saying that if they cannot get a simple fact right, it speaks about the credibility of the Pakistan government.

The sources said that at 9.45 a.m. on Wednesday, a sizeable force of Pakistan Air Force jets – over 20 in number – flew from a number of bases in Pakistan and approached the Indian air space.

Some crossed the Line of Control (LoC) and launched some laser-guided bombs. Their target was military installations but they missed narrowly because they could not come closer.

This, the sources said, happened against the backdrop of Khan’s claim that Pakistan wanted to show its strength but it was false because their actual target was military installations.

Khan said on Thursday that Islamabad’s action was intended to convey that if India can come into Pakistan, then Pakistan can do the same.

The sources said that there was deliberate effort by Pakistan to create a war psychosis by shutting its airspace and informing foreign embassies that India would launch missiles and also that there could be attack by the sea.

He said India conducted a targeted operation at a venue where fidayeen jehadis were being trained and there were no civilian casualties.

On Khan’s demand for actionable intelligence, the sources said India had considered giving it but felt there will be no use given that Pakistan had not acted on the detailed information given after the terror attacks on Mumbai and the Pathankot IAF base — even after a Pakistani team was given access.

They said India consistently briefed the international community and Pakistan’s reluctance in the past to act against terror perpetrators, and this was appreciated.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Thursday welcomed Pakistan’s offer to release Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman.

Meanwhile, the United States on Thursday also welcomed Pakistan’s decision to release the captured Indian Air Force pilot.

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