New Delhi | Jagran News Desk: Balakot air strike hero Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, who is now a Group Captain, was awarded the Vir Chakra, India's third-highest war time gallantry medal, on Monday by President Ram Nath Kovind in an investiture ceremony for shooting down a Pakistani F-16 with his MiG-21 Bison during an aerial combat on February 27, 2019.

Besides Group Captain Varthaman, Major Vibhuti Shankar Dhoundiyal received the Shaurya Chakra (posthumously) for role in neutralising five terrorists during an operation in Jammu and Kashmir. Naib Subedar Sombir was also awarded with Shaurya Chakra (posthumously) for neutralising an A++ category terrorist in Kashmir.

Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman was recently promoted to the rank of Group Captain. "He had cleared his board and now he has been promoted. All who had cleared the board have been promoted," news agency IANS quoted a senior government official as saying.

Group Captain Varthaman had downed a Pakistani jet on February 27, 2019 when the neighbouring country launched retaliation against India for the Balakot air strikes a day before. The strike by India's warplanes on a Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) terrorist training camp in Balakot and the Pakistani Air Force's subsequent retaliation the next day triggered fears of a war between the two nuclear-armed neighbours.

The most visible face of the confrontation was Group Captain Varthaman whose capture by Pakistan after downing his MiG-21 fighter triggered the most serious military crisis between the two neighbours in decades.

Before his jet was hit, Group Captain Varthaman downed the F-16 fighter of Pakistan. Group Captain Varthaman was released on the night of March 1 by Pakistan. He had suffered injuries while ejecting from his MiG-21 Bison during the aerial combat.

Posted By: Aalok Sensharma