Live: Emotional scenes at Attari as Wing Commander Abhinandan comes home

An entire nation saluted a valiant Abhinandan Varthaman upon his return from Pakistani captivity.


NEW DELHI: Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman was released by Pakistan on Friday even as Pakistan stooped down to play the delay tactic.

India had mounted massive pressure on Imran Khan for the release of the IAF pilot. There were scenes of absolute jubilation at the Attari border even before the IAF pilot had officially crossed over.

Security at the border was extremely tight as the Abhinandan was received on the Indian side by top Indian Air Force officials. Among the many who had gathered to welcome the valiant hero were his parents.

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan had on Thursday announced that the captive pilot will be released as a gesture of peace. The 'goodwill gesture' came largely due to the position India took throughout the day to bring its pilot back home and maintained no deals would be made with Pakistan. India also slammed the neighbour nation for violating terms of the Geneva Convention by displaying vulgar images of the injured IAF personnel.

Pakistan detained the IAF personnel Wednesday following a fierce engagement between air forces of the two nations along the Line of Control. Varthaman downed a F-16 fighter jet of Pakistan Air Force by firing an R-73 air-to-air missile before his jet, a MiG 21 bison, was hit by an enemy missile, the sources said.

Here is what happened on Friday (March 1):

01 March 2019
22:27 PM

Welcome Home Wing Commander Abhinandan! The nation is proud of your exemplary courage. Our armed forces are an inspiration for 130 crore Indians. Vande Mataram!

-- Prime Minister Narendra Modi

21:34 PM

"Good to be back in my country. I am fine."

Abhinandan's first words after crossing the border, according to an IAF official at Attari.

21:31 PM

Abhinandan accompanied by IAF Group Captain Joy Thomas Kurien, Defence Attache to Indian High Commission in Pakistan.

He has been taken to a waiting car in a convoy which will now head to Amritsar. He will then leave for Delhi.

21:25 PM

Abhinandan gets a hug from Indian security officials as he walks into India. Pakistan shuts its gate. Absolutely emotional scenes at Attari.

21:19 PM

Abhinandan is accompanied by his wife.

21:18 PM

Pakistan stoops to new low, turns handover of Abhinandan into a PR exercise.

21:09 PM

Wing Commander Abhinandan handed to Indian High Commission officials

20:47 PM

ANI quoting sources: Pakistan has changed the time of handover twice. Defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman keeping a close watch on the situation.

20:13 PM

Reports from Attari-Wagah border suggest that Pakistani authorities have not cleared all the paperwork for the official handover of Abhinandan. There is a suspicion that Pakistani authorities want maximum media spotlight on the release and is, therefore, using the delaying tactics.

18:47 PM

Abhinandan may have crossed the border and is on Indian soil but his medical checkups are causing a delay in transferring him to Amritsar.

18:46 PM

One CRPF personnel has been martyred in an ongoing encounter with terrorists in J&K's Kupwara. Three others are injured.

18:08 PM

Wing Commander Abhinandan currently on Indian soil, clearing customs, immigration formalities.

17:53 PM

Pakistan's Beating Retreat ceremony currently underway.

17:15 PM

Abhinandan has been handed over to Indian authorities by Pakistan.

17:14 PM

Formalities from Pakistan side for the release of Abhinandan are over.

17:13 PM

A team of Indian Air Force personnel will receive Abhinandan.

16:19 PM

Abhinandan reaches Wagah border, will cross over to India shortly.

15:51 PM

These are the same people whose statements are helping Pakistan and harming India. They are the same people whose statements are being happily quoted in Parliament of Pakistan and the radio of Pakistan. I want to ask them- do you support our armed forces or suspect them, asks PM Modi.

15:51 PM

A few parties, guided by Modi hatred have started hating India. No wonder, while the entire nation supports our armed forces, they suspect the armed forces. The world is supporting India’s fight against terror but a few parties suspect our fight against terror, says PM in Tamil Nadu

15:44 PM

26/11 happened, India expected action against terrorists but nothing happened. When Uri and Pulwama happened, you saw what our brave soldiers did. I salute those who are serving the nation, says PM Modi in Kanyakumari.


15:43 PM

Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman held a security review meeting with National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and the three services chiefs, reports ANI.

15:35 PM

China on Friday welcomed Pakistan's decision to release IAF pilot Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman and encouraged the two countries to engage in more counter-terrorism cooperation and dialogue for regional peace and stability, say reports.

15:34 PM

Air Canada resumes flight services to India after a temporary suspension of operations in the wake of India-Pakistan tension, say reports.

15:29 PM

A huge crowd has gathered at the Wagah-Attari border to welcome Wing Commander Abhinandan, who is expected to arrive here anytime. 

15:20 PM

I have flagged off the fastest train Tejas between Madurai-Chennai and the train is a great example of 'Make in India,' having been manufactured in the Integral Coach factory of Chennai itself: PM Modi

15:19 PM

I am proud that India’s first woman Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman is from Tamil Nadu, says PM Modi.

15:15 PM

PM Modi addresses rally in Tamil Nadu's Kanyakumari, says every Indian is proud that the brave Wing Commander Abhinanadan is from this state.


14:51 PM

After three days of being in captivity, Abhinandan Varthaman will be handed over to Indian authorities at Wagah-Attari border. 

He will be taken to Amritsar air base from where he will fly to Delhi's Palam Technical area. 

14:50 PM

Following the air strikes by Pakistan, the chiefs of Indian Air Force and Indian Navy will be given Z+ security cover, sources in Delhi Police told Zee Media.

14:22 PM

The Beating the Retreat ceremony at Attari-Wagah Border will not be held today. 

"The Beating the Retreat ceremony will not be held today. Senior team of the Indian Air Force will receive Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman," Deputy Commissioner Shiv Dular Singh Dhillon, Amritsar, told ANI.


14:00 PM

India had requested to bring back Abhinandan by flight but Pakistan refused to agree: Sources tell Zee News

13:52 PM

"I come from land of Mahatma Gandhi, where every prayer ends with the call for Shanti or Peace for all," Swaraj's concluding statements at OIC.

13:37 PM

EAM Sushma Swaraj at OIC conclave: If we want to save humanity, we must tell the states who provide shelter and funding to terrorists, to dismantle the infrastructure of the terrorist camps and stop providing shelter and funding to the terror organisations based in that country.


13:28 PM

Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) president Asif Ali Zardari slammed fellow politician and Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi for failing to attend the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).

“Not attending the meeting is not the solution,” Zardari said in the joint session of Pakistan Parliament. “I suggest the foreign minister attend the OIC meeting. He should go there and talk.”

13:24 PM

As Sushma Swaraj addresses OIC meet, laying focus on terrorism, Pakistan chair remains empty: Tap to read

13:22 PM

This is not a clash of civilisations or cultures, but a contest of ideas and ideals. As PM Modi has often said, it is a struggle between the values of humanism and the forces of inhumanity: Swaraj

13:22 PM

India has always embraced and found it easy to embrace pluralism since it is embedded in the oldest Sanskrit religious text “The Rig Veda” and I quote "एकं सद्विप्रा बहुधा वदन्ति", which means “God is One but learned men describe Him in many ways": Swaraj.

13:12 PM

Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman left from Islamabad around 12 pm. He's expected to reach Wagah-Attari border in next two to three hours to reach, around 3 pm. He is accompanied by defence attache and Pakistan diplomats, sources tell Zee News. Before handing over to India, Varthaman's medical tests will be conducted. 

He will immediately be shifted to Delhi for debriefing.

13:11 PM

India shares much with you.  Many of us have experienced the dark days of colonialism. Many of us saw, the light of freedom and the bright ray of hope at the same time. 
We have stood together in solidarity, in our quest for justice and dignity: Swaraj

13:08 PM

In the past four years, few relationships have seen as much engagement, or has been so transformed, as India’s relationship with #UAE and, indeed,  with the entire Gulf and West Asia Region. In a sense, it is a return of history.: Swaraj

13:08 PM

I carry the greetings of 1.3 billion Indians, including more than 185 million Muslim brothers and sisters. Our Muslims brothers and sisters are a microcosm of the diversity of India itself: Sushma Swaraj at OIC conclave


12:45 PM

"Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman will cross the border today, can't tell you exact time since there are certain formalities. A senior Indian Air force team from Delhi is here, they will be the ones to receive him," said Deputy Commissioner Shiv Dular Singh Dhillon, Amritsar.

12:43 PM

Hundreds of people flocked the Attari border Friday to catch a glimpse of Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, who is expected to touch home soil after his release from Pakistan. 

12:40 PM

EAM Sushma Swaraj will address the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation at 1 pm. 

12:30 PM

Wing Commander Abhinandan's parents - Air Marshal (retd) S Varthaman and Dr Shobha Varthaman - were given a standing ovation as passengers made way for them in the early hours of Friday, ensuring that they couple gets off first. Read here.


12:04 PM

Several people come together at Attari-Wagah border to welcome Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman home. 

11:56 AM

As tension escalated between with India, Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said he won't be attending Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).

"I will not attend Council of Foreign Ministers as a matter of principle for having extended invitation as a Guest of Honour to Sushma Swaraj," says Qureshi. 

Read more

11:54 AM

The rising tensions between India and Pakistan following the Pulwama terror attack and the Indian airstrikes and thereafter are unlikely to have an impact on the discussions over the Kartarpur corridor, sources said on Friday. India has confirmed that officials from both the countries are meeting to decide on the modalities of Kartarpur corridor. "It concerns the sentiments of a community, we welcome Pakistani delegation for the talks," sources told Zee media.  Read more

11:49 AM

BJP President Amit Shah Friday said creating a situation for the return of Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman from Pakistan was a diplomatic victory, ahead of the expected arrival of the captured pilot.

11:37 AM

6 Jamaat-e-Islami activists were detained by the police during fresh raids in various villages of Tral in south Kashmir's Pulwama district on Friday.


11:13 AM

Indian High Commission Islamabad has completed Wing Commander Abhinandan’s travel documentation, sources tell Zee Media. 


10:52 AM
10:47 AM

Wing Commander Abhinandan will be handed over to India at the Wagah border today afternoon, around 3 to 4 pm, says Pakistan Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson.


10:42 AM

Even as nation awaits the safe return of Wing Commander Abhinandan, India continued to mount pressure on Pakistan to act against Jaish-e-Mohammad. 

After handing over a dossier to Pakistan, Indian intelligence agencies have now prepared a comprehensive document listing evidence against JeM. The file presents documents collected from several open source magazines and write-ups.

“Enclosed are a set of activities that Jaish e Mohammed and Azhar Masood undertake in Pakistan, under the nose of the Pakistan establishment. These are available on open source, on blogs, websites, Facebook accounts and Twitter accounts. Many of them openly declare association of Jaish with terror attacks,” writes India.

10:05 AM

Google-owned YouTube on Thursday removed 11 objectionable video links of Indian Air Force (IAF) pilot Abhinandan Varthaman after the IT Ministry asked the video streaming platform to do so. Read more.


10:00 AM

Wing Commander Abhinandan is expected to be handed over at Wagah border crossing to IAF and Indian High Commission officials shortly after noon. 

09:54 AM

Pakistani airspace continues to remain closed to commercial operations until Friday at 1 pm, said the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) of the country. 

09:47 AM

Border Security Force arrests a 21-year-old Indian national near Maboke border post in Ferozepur. A mobile phone with Pakistani SIM card was seized from him. The number was a part of eight Pakistan groups. Six other Pakisani phone numbers have also been retrieved from him. 

09:28 AM

In Photos: How world media covered Pakistan announcing release of IAF Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman


09:16 AM

Watch how Wing Commander Abhinandan stood brave against all odds in Pakistan. 

09:15 AM
08:31 AM

Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi on Friday admitted that Masood Azhar, founder of banned terrorist organisation Jaish-e-Mohammad, is indeed in Pakistan. Speaking to CNN, Qureshi said, "He is in Pakistan. According to my information. he's very unwell. He is unwell to the extent that he cannot leave his house." 

When asked why Pakistan hasn't yet arrested Azhar who caused so much tension between the two neighbour nations, Qureshi said Pakistan wants evidence so that it can stand in a court of law and follow a legal process.

Read more

08:29 AM

Combined security forces kill two terrorists in an encounter with on Friday. The encounter ensued between terrorists and security forces in Jammu and Kashmir's Kupwara district. More terrorists are believed to be trapped in the area. The firing has now stopped and a search operation is underway. 

08:27 AM

India has given specific information about Jaish-e-Mohammad to all 15 members of United Nations Security Council even as the US, the UK and France having moved a fresh proposal there to designate the Pakistan-based terror group`s chief Masood Azhar as a global terrorist.


08:20 AM

Amid escalation tension between India and Pakistan, all defence organisations ramped up security across the country. A high alert has been issued in few states.

08:16 AM

Pakistan violated the ceasefire along the Line of Control (LoC) in Uri sector of Jammu and Kashmir, amid prevailing tensions between India and the neighbouring country. The ceasefire violation, which was reported on Thursday, left a civilian injured. Read more here


07:53 AM

United States Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo on Thursday said Washington is "working hard" to reduce the tension between New Delhi and Islamabad so that the process of talks could begin. 

07:48 AM

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj reaches Abu Dhabi to attend a conclave of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) as a Guest of Honour, despite Pakistan`s objections. Swaraj will address the plenary of the two-day 46th session of the Council of Foreign Ministers of the 57-member body. 


07:13 AM

Quick recap of Thursday's events: 

India sends out a strong message demanding the immediate release of Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman and refuses any deal or negotiation. Imran Khan later announces that the pilot would be released on Friday as a 'peace gesture.' 

In a joint press conference by the three armed forces - the Army, Navy and the Air Force - in the evening, India bust the false claims made by Pakistan. 

Officials state that a MiG -21 fighter jet had indeed shot down a Pakistan F-16 bomber after the jets from the neighbouring nation violated India's airspace with an intention to target Indian military installations on Wednesday. ''One Pakistani F-16 was shot down by an IAF MiG 21 Bison Aircraft. East of Rajouri, parts of F-16 have been recovered, inside the Indian territory,'' Air Vice Marshal RGK Kapoor said. 

Parts of AIM-120 AMRAAM (Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile), fired at India by Pakistani Air Force's F-16 fighter plane, was presented at the joint conference.

Meanwhile, Pakistani troops resorted to unprovoked firing towards Indian posts and villages at several locations. Indian Army has responded to the Pakistani firing in adequate measure, the officials said. 



07:00 AM

Quick recap of Wednesday's events: 

Pakistan Air Force warplanes attempt to target military installations in India in response to IAF's counter-terrorism operations but fail. IAF chases out three Pakistani aircraft and downs an F-16 fighter jet but also loses a MiG 21 Bison.

"In this engagement, we have unfortunately lost one MiG 21. The pilot is missing in action. Pakistan has claimed that he is in their custody. We are ascertaining the facts," said External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar, accompanied by Air Vice Marshal RGK Kapoor, in a brief press conference.

It is soon revealed that IAF Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, who downed F-16 fighter jet of Pakistan Air Force by firing an R-73 air-to-air missile before his jet, a MiG 21 bison, was hit by an enemy missile, was in Pakistan's captivity.


As tensions simmer between the two nations, India slammed Pakistan for the vulgar display of the injured IAF personnel and violation the terms of Geneva convention and demanded that he be handed back safely.

Soon after, Imran Khan appeals for dialogue between the two countries while making no mention of terrorists and terror network in his country.


06:50 AM

Quick recap of Tuesday's events:

Indian Air Force (IAF) aircraft bomb terrorist outfit Jaish-e-Mohammed's (JeM) biggest training camp killing "a very large number" of terrorists and their trainers in a pre-dawn, ''pre-emptive and non-military'' operation in the wee hours. The IAF's action comes exactly 11 days after a JeM suicide bomber killed at least 40 CRPF troopers in the Pulwama district of Jammu and Kashmir on February 14.

The IAF used 12 Mirage 2000 fighter jets for the precision strike and were backed by Emb 145 early warning plane which was deployed to pick up any emerging threat at a large distance and alert the attacking pilots.

This is the first time that the IAF had crossed into Pakistan after the 1971 war.