New Delhi, March 1: Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman of the Indian Air Force (IAF) came back home from Pakistan's captivity on Friday to a hero's welcome at the Attari border.
Hundreds of media personnel and thousands of public waited eagerly at the Attari border that separates India from Pakistan and millions of Indians glued to their TV sets.
Indian Cricketing fraternity led by cricketing legend Sachin Tendulkar - who is an honorary IAF group captain - welcomed the braveheart who returned on Indian soil two days after he was captured following a dogfight when his MiG 21 was shot down. Pakistani officials handed over Varthaman to Indian officials, including from the IAF, at the Attari-Wagah Border.
The BCCI on Friday unveiled Team India's new limited-overs' jersey and dedicated No. 1 to Wing Commander Abhinandan.
Here's how Team India welcomed the Braveheart:
Cricketing legend Sachin Tendulkar wrote on his Twitter handle, "A hero is more than just four letters. Through his courage, selflessness and perseverance, OUR HERO teaches us to have faith in ourselves. #WelcomeHomeAbhinandan Jai Hind".
BCCI dedicated a special jersey to Wing Commander Abhinandan upon his arrival.
Indian Women's Cricket Captain Mithali Raj welcomed Abinandan Varthaman on his safe return and saluted his bravery.
India captain Virat Kohli tweeted an image of Wing Commander Abhinandan and saluted him.
This is how veteran India cricketer Harbhajan Singh greeted the IAF officer.
Former India cricketer VVS Laxman tweeted an image of Abhinandan Varthaman and hailed his service.
However, the pilot was whisked away in a convoy by Indian officials away from the public glare. According to IAF officials, he will be brought to Delhi from Amritsar in a special flight.
Varthaman was captured by Pakistani authorities on February 27 after air combat between the air forces of the two countries, a day after New Delhi had conducted counter-terror operations in Pakistan's Balakot.
Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan addressing a special joint sitting of Parliament on Thursday announced his release as a "peace gesture". However, India has been maintaining that Pakistani decision is in consonance with the Geneva Convention.
The Pakistan government was under tremendous international pressure to de-escalate the tensions with India and release the captured pilot. Forty CRPF personnel were killed and many injured on February 14 in one of the deadliest terror attacks in Jammu and Kashmir when a Jaish-e-Mohammed suicide bomber rammed a vehicle carrying over 100 kg of explosives into their bus in Pulwama district.
(With PTI inputs)
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