Indian Air Force Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman, who became the face of the tense military confrontation between India and Pakistan in February earlier this year, is likely to be awarded a Vir Chakra, according to a News18 report citing unnamed sources.
The Vir Chakra is awarded for acts of gallantry in the presence of the enemy, whether on land or at sea or in the air.
Along with Abhinandan, pilots of the five Mirage-2000 fighter jets, who had dropped bombs on a Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM) terror launch-pad in Balakot area in Pakistan's Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, are also likely to be decorated with Vayu Sena medals, reported IANS.
"The final list of gallantry awardees will get the nod from President Ram Nath Kovind on August 14. Only after the list has been formally approved by the President can we disclose the names of awardees to the general public," IANS quoted a senior Indian Air Force official as saying
Varthaman became the first IAF pilot to shoot down an F-16 fighter jet during the aerial combat with the Pakistani Air Force, foiling the latter's bid to attack Indian military installations along the Line of Control, the report said.
Varthaman was captured by the Pakistani Army after his MiG-21 Bison jet was shot down in a fierce dogfight with Pakistani jets. Islamabad released Varthaman on the night of March 1 after holding him for more than 60 hours.
Varthaman's exemplary valour and composure in Pakistani captivity were praised across Indian, including by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Tensions between India and Pakistan escalated after the IAF's surgical strike on terror camps in Pakistan's Balakot region in retaliation to a car bomb attack by Pakistan-based terror outfit Jaish-E-Mohammad terrorist in Pulwama, Jammu and Kashmir.
Varthaman is currently recovering from ejection-related injuries and is likely to undergo a series of tests in the coming months at the Bengaluru-based Institute of Aerospace Medicine that will have to give him final clearance for flying again, the News18 report added.
First Published: IST