Indian Air Force (IAF) pilot Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, who downed an F-16 fighter of Pakistan on February 27, will be awarded the Vir Chakra gallantry medal, one of India’s top military honours, on Independence Day.

Indian Air Force’s Squadron Leader Minty Agarwal will be conferred the Yudh Seva Medal for her role as a fighter controller during the February 27 aerial conflict between India and Pakistan post the IAF airstrikes in Balakot.

Indian Army’s Sapper Prakash Jadhav of 1 Rashtriya Rifles (Mahar) will be conferred with Kirti Chakra (posthumously) on August 15 for his gallant role in an operation in Jammu and Kashmir. Eight Army personnel will be awarded the Shaurya Chakra medal; five of them posthumously.

Abhinandan was captured by Pakistan after his MiG-21 Bison jet was shot down in a dogfight with Pakistani jets during an aerial combat. His own aircraft had been hit by a missile forcing him to eject from the fighter jet before it crashlanded in Pakistan.

After he was captured, Abhinandan Varthaman showed courage and grace in handling the most difficult circumstances for which he was praised by politicians, strategic affairs experts, ex-servicemen, celebrities and people in general.

Abhinandan Varthaman became the first IAF pilot to shoot down an F-16 fighter jet during an aerial combat with the Pakistani Air Force.

Pakistani security forces released him to India around 60 hours later at the Wagah border following diplomatic pressure from India.

The Vir Chakra is the third highest wartime military award in India.

Tensions between India and Pakistan escalated after Indian fighters bombed terror group JeM’s biggest training camp near Balakot, deep inside Pakistan on February 26 in retaliation to a terror strike in Jammu and Kashmir’s Pulwama on February 14 in which over 40 CRPF personnel were killed.

The Indian strike on the JeM camp came 12 days after the terror outfit claimed responsibility for the suicide attack.