Pakistan had announced on Thursday afternoon, that it would release IAF fighter pilot Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman from its custody on Friday.
The countdown started and the atmosphere in the India-Pakistan border at Wagah was electric, in anticipation of the moustachioed pilot walking through the gates of both the countries.
Abhinandan was scheduled to walk into the Indian border at around 17:00 Hrs IST. A crowd had gathered at the Wagah border, armed with the Indian national flags and placards with various slogans in support of Abhinandan.
However, Pakistan tested the patience of not just those assembled at the border, but of each and every Indian citizen as well.
Pakistan delayed the handing-over process of Abhinandan by about five hours. Abhinandan, who flew in the air across the border to Pakistan chasing an F-16, walked back across the border to India by foot at around 21:20 Hrs IST. Abhinandan was clad in blue blazer, white shirt and khaki trousers. His face, with his now-famous moustache, had a look of confidence as he entered India and shook hands with the Border Security Force (BSF) personnel who were present at the heavily-guarded Wagah border to receive him.
Abhinandan was led to the Pakistan border exit gate, accompanied by a Pakistani Foreign Office representative and Indian Defence Group Attache Group Captain Joy Thomas Kurien. Pakistan Rangers handed Abhinandan over to the BSF; a Pakistan Rangers officer handed over the papers to the BSF officer, thus marking an end to the almost two-day drama.
A tweet from the Ministry of Defence read, ‘For honour of the Nation, you kept duty ahead of your personal safety. Wearing India Colours on your sleeve, you showed calm and poise in adversity. #Abhinandan you created history and in you we find the best of the Indian Armed Forces. Bravo #AirWarrior, more power to you.”