KARACHI: Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman of Indian Air Force, who was captured in Pakistan after his fighter aircraft was shot down by a Pakistan Air Force (PAF) pilot and later handed over to India as a peace gesture, had said he saw “no reason for us [the two neighbouring countries] to continue with any kind of hostilities”.

In a report based on two-year-old footage but released on Saturday, Dawn.com quotes the captured Indian pilot as saying that he saw no differences between the landscape and people of Pakistan and India when he was descending in his parachute after his plane had been shot down.

The footage appeared to be from the same interview that was telecast soon after his capture in 2019. “I did not even know whether I was in Pakistan or my own country, India, because both countries looked the same to me. All the people, everything looked the same to me.”

Abhinandan also praised professionalism of Pakistan Army, shows footage

The Indian military officer then recalled what had happened when he was seized by some Pakistani villagers, whose “passion was quite high”.

“A captain of the Pakistani Army came; he saved me from these people. He took me to his unit where I was given first aid and after that I was taken to the hospital where I was checked and given more aid. Since then, I am here…,” he said.

Abhinandan also praised the Pakistan Army, saying he found it to be “a very fine, professional force and very chivalrous”, according to the Dawn.com report.

The Indian officer also expressed the hope that peace could be established between the two countries. “I do not know what needs to be done to bring about peace but I only know that there should be peace. And I see no reason for us to continue with any kind of hostilities…. We can live in peace,” the IAF pilot stressed.

Abhinandan was arrested on Feb 27, 2019, after his aircraft was shot down by the PAF upon violating Pakistani airspace.

Prime Minister Imran Khan announced in parliament that the Indian pilot would be released as a gesture of peace. Abhinandan was handed over to Indian authorities at the Wagah border crossing on March 1, 2019.

Published in Dawn, February 28th, 2021

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