When Indian Air Force Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman was taken into Pakistani custody, after his aircraft crashed during an aerial dogfight between India and Pakistan, the nation was reminded of another Indian pilot who faced a similar fate during the Kargil War.
Group Captain Kambampati Nachiketa was taken prisoner by the Pakistan Army on May 27, 1999, following ejection from his MiG-27 aircraft after suffering engine flame-out. He was subsequently sent back to India eight days later after being interrogated by the authorities
Speaking to CNN-News18, Nachiketa, who was subjected to intense thrashing by Pakistani Northern Infantry as a prisoner, said the news of Abhinandan’s capture disturbed him greatly.
“However, at the same time, each one of us at the forces is trained and conditioned to survive such circumstances,” he said, adding that this makes him confident that upon his return to India, Abhinandan will be able to join back the unit soon.
Introspecting over the similarities between his situation and Abhinandan’s, he said, “Kargil was a limited offensive hostility, whereas this was a case where an aerial reaction stemmed from the need to carry out anti-terror operations in the wake of the recent developments.”
According to Nachiketa, the shifting sands of the geopolitical situation of both India and Pakistan, also has a bearing on the outcome.
On Thursday, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan had announced that Abhinandan will be returned to India as a “gesture of peace”.
A day before, Pakistan had released a 39-second clip of Abhinandan in captivity, where he was seen sipping tea. A composed Abhinandan said he’s being treated well and that he was ‘quite impressed’ by the Pakistani army officials. Pakistan has on multiple occasions emphasized the pilot’s well-being has been ensured at all times.
When asked whether he believes in these promises, Nachiketa said, “Abhinandan has been made a prisoner of war in a hostile situation while he was in the line of duty. As per Geneva Conventions, to which both India and Pakistan are signatories, he should be treated with respect an officer deserves and sent back in a healthy condition.”
“However, it’s only once he gets back will we really get to know the factual truths,” he added.
Nachiketa also lauded the Abhinandan as a brave and courageous pilot “with high professional ethos befitting an IAF warrior”. “We are all proud of him,” he quipped.
Nachikata said he believes that Pakistan’s gesture to return the war pilot is “definitely one of goodwill” and comes as a great relief for the officer’s family and the unit. “The entire nation awaits the return its pilot and looks forward to him setting foot back on his motherland after crossing Wagah.”
He added that his prayers are with Abhinandan and his family, who he hopes, were able to bear his absence with courage and fortitude. “We all wait for his return with great anticipation.”.