Bruised, thrashed, assaulted and bleeding from his face as he gave his name and service code to his Pakistani captors, Indian Air Force (IAF) pilot, Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, stood out by his calmness in between an escalating India-Pakistan conflict.
The cool and calm composure and polite behavior of the blindfolded IAF pilot was all the more astounded as it came after he had been beaten up by villagers just after his MiG-21 crashed in Pakistani territory on Wednesday morning.
Rescued by a Pakistani Army captain (Abhinandan Varthaman thanked him with unfailing courtesy), the 38-year-old Indian with a handlebar mustache. resurfaced in a second video later in the day, looking relaxed and calm as he sat and sipped tea from a mug, his blindfold removed and face cleaned up by now.
The off-screen Pakistani Army asked the officer if he had been treated well, Abhinandan replied: “Yes, I have and I’d like to put this on record. And I will not change my statement if I go back to my country also, the officers of the Pakistani Army have looked after me very well—they’re thorough gentlemen, starting from the captain who rescued me from the mob, and from his soldiers and thereafter the officers in the unit that I was taken into. This is what I would expect my army to behave as.”
The IAF pilot, who went down on the other side of the LoC after a savage engagement with Pakistani jets, was the center of attention all day long as social media and television speculated his fate. A curt Indian announcement that a pilot was missing only heightened the suspense before his video-recorded statement emerged.
The officer’s calm behavior despite his hostile reception and the fact of being in captivity at a time of high tensions and conflict between India and Pakistan came through in the videos. In the last one, his injuries seem to have been treated while he has a band-aid on his right hand in which he holds a cup of tea.
In the first video, local villagers in PoK are seen slapping and punching him on the face, abuse him even as the officer is on the ground. Pakistan army soldiers are heard saying he should be left alone. Indian officials said that maybe he was further beaten as the clip does not show any injury to his face.
In the second video, the officer’s face emitting blood. Here, his hands and feet are tied and he is blindfolded as he stands in a room. when his identity is asked by a Pakistani officer, he says, “Can I begin, please? Yeah, My name is Wing Commander Abhinandan. My service number is 27981. I am a flight pilot.”
A Pakistani officer further asks him “what else?” to which Abhinandan calmly replies, “I am sorry sir. That’s what I am supposed to tell you.” The Pakistani officer continues to ask him about his squadron to which Abhinandan replies, “I am not supposed to tell you that.”
Later on, Wednesday evening, after India demands and asked for the immediate and safe return of the IAF pilot, a third video was leaked perhaps in an effort to save Pakistan from international criticism.