Tamil Nadu Chief Minister K Palaniswami Friday urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to confer Param Vir Chakra, the country’s highest military honour, on Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, captured by Pakistan after a dogfight in the skies and released later.
In a letter to Modi, Palaniswami said the IAF pilot, a native of Tamil Nadu, displayed amazing poise and confidence in the face of the adverse condition and it would be appropriate he be awarded the highest military honour.
He noted that Varthaman was released by Pakistan “due to the diplomatic initiatives” of the Prime Minister and “intense international pressure”.
“Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman displayed amazing poise and confidence in the face of adverse conditions, which has won him many hearts across the country. It is appropriate that he be awarded India’s highest military honour Param Vir Chakra (PVC) for displaying most inimitable gallantry and valour,” the chief minister said.
“I request the Government of India to confer the nation’s highest military honour, Param Vir Chakra, on Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman,” he added.
Palaniswami recalled that the MiG-21 Bison aircraft piloted by Varthaman had shot down a Pakistan Air Force fighter (F-16) when it tried to violate India’s air space and that he was later taken into custody by Pakistani armed forces.
India carried out “non-military pre-emptive” airstrikes targeting the JeM training camp in Balakot in Pakistan’s restive Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, about 80-km from the Line of Control (LoC) early on February 26 reportedly “killing a very large number of terrorists”.
The following day, India and Pakistan engaged in aerial hostilities along the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir for the first time since 1971 on Wednesday after the February 14 Pulwama terror attack that killed over 44 Central Reserve Police Force troopers in Kashmir.
Pakistani Air Force jets violated Indian airspace in Jammu and Kashmir’s Rajouri sector and attempted to target Indian military installations, but missed their targets. They were immediately pushed back by Indian jets on air patrol, who also shot down a Pakistani F-16 whose wreckage fell on the other side of the LoC.
IAF pilot Abhinandan Varthaman was captured after his MiG-21 Bison fighter jet was hit near the Line of Control (LoC) in Kashmir and he landed on the other side of the LoC. He returned home on March 1 after Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan announced he would be released as a “gesture of peace”.
According to the Central government, Param Vir Chakra “is awarded for most conspicuous bravery or some daring or pre-eminent act of valour or self-sacrifice, in the presence of the enemy, whether on land, at sea, or in the air.”
(With PTI inputs)