Nirmala Sitharaman meets Abhinandan Varthaman

Abhinandan 'subjected to mental trauma while under Pakistani imprisonment'

Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman on Saturday met Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman and conveyed to him that the entire nation is proud of his courage and determination, officials said.

During the meeting at a medical facility of the Indian Air Force, Varthaman is understood to have explained to Sitharaman details about his nearly 60-hour stay in Pakistan.

Official sources said Varthaman briefly mentioned to Sitharaman about the mental trauma he was subjected to during his nearly 60-hour captivity in Pakistan after he was caught in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir on Wednesday.

He is mentally strong and remains in high spirits despite the harassment he suffered in Pakistan, they said.

Varthaman arrived in the national capital by an IAF flight around 11:45 PM Friday, nearly two-and-half hours after he crossed over to India through the Attari-Wagah border.

Currently, he is undergoing medical tests at the Air Force Central Medical Establishment (AFCME), a compact and specialised medical evaluation centre for aircrew of all the three services.

He was captured by Pakistani authorities on February 27 after his MiG 21 Bison went down during a dogfight with Pakistani jets. But before his plane was hit, Varthaman shot down an F-16 of Pakistan air force

When he crossed over to India Friday night, his right eye above his handlebar moustache appeared swollen.

In a tweet, the defence minister said she met Varthaman and his family to "commend him on his valour, express the nation's gratitude for his selfless service, and wish him a speedy recovery".

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

When Varthaman, son of an IAF veteran, crossed over to India Friday night, his right eye above his handlebar moustache appeared swollen. A video on social media showed that he was badly beaten up by a mob before being rescued by Pakistani security personnel.

Tensions between the two countries escalated after Indian fighters bombed terror group Jaish-e-Mohammed's biggest training camp near Balakot deep inside Pakistan early Tuesday.

Pakistan retaliated the strike by carrying attempting to target Indian military installations on Wednesday. However, the IAF thwarted their plans.

The Indian strike on the JeM camp 12 days after the terror group claimed responsibility for a suicide attack on a CRPF convoy in Kashmir, killing 40 soldiers.

With PTI inputs

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Nirmala Sitharaman meets Abhinandan Varthaman

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