Indian Air Force (IAF) Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, who spent nearly 60 hours in Pakistan's custody after being captured following an aerial dogfight on February 27, will be awarded Vir Chakra gallantry medal on Independence Day, news agency ANI reported.
Squadron Leader Minty Agarwal, who played an important role as a fighter controller during the February 27 aerial conflict post-IAF's airstrikes in Balakot, will also be awarded on this occasion. She will be conferred with Yudh Seva Medal.
Varthaman was captured by the Pakistani Army on February 27 after his MiG-21 Bison jet was shot down in a dogfight with Pakistani jets during aerial combat. After he was captured, Varthaman showed courage and grace in handling the most difficult circumstances for which he was praised by politicians, strategic affairs experts, ex-servicemen, celebrities and people in general.
Before his jet was hit, he downed an F-16 fighter of Pakistan. Varthaman was released on the night of March 1 by Pakistan.
The 36-year-old IAF pilot had sustained injuries while ejecting from his MiG 21 Bison during the aerial combat between Indian and Pakistani air forces on February 27.
Varthaman, who became the face of a tense military confrontation between India and Pakistan, is set to fly MiG 21 within next two weeks as a medical board cleared his return to fighter cockpit, sources said on Friday.
IAF's Bengaluru-based Institute of Aerospace Medicine has given the go-ahead to Varthaman to fly again following a thorough medical evaluation.
Days after he returned from Pakistan, Varthaman conveyed to IAF brass his wish to return to fighter cockpit at the earliest.