Indian President Ram Nath Kovind has awarded India’s third-highest military honour, the Vie Chakra, to Indian Air Force (IAF) pilot Abhinandan who was caught by Pakistani forces after his MiG 21 Bison aircraft was shot down by a Pakistan Air Force (PAF) jet in 2019. The pilot was awarded the medal for “displaying exceptional air combat acumen” while fighting the Pakistan Air Force’s (PAF) F-16 aircraft.
A report of the Hindustan Times claimed that Abhinandan’s citation stated that “Despite being captured by the enemy, he continued to display exceptional resolve in dealing with the adversary in a stoic, brave and dignified manner till he was repatriated on March 1, 2019”.
The Pakistan Army, media, and independent observers had verified that no F-16 had been shot down by India.
On February 27, 2019, the PAF shot down two Indian aircraft inside Pakistani Airspace. One of the aircraft, carrying Abhinandan, fell inside Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJ&K). The pilot was captured by locals and was retrieved from their custody by Pakistan Army troops in the region.
Many in Pakistan commented on the news of Abhinandan receiving the medal on social media with witty responses.
Senior journalists and politicians also reacted to the Indian version of the events that unfolded in February 2019. Nadeem Malik, while reacting to the news tweeted, “Pakistan invited the US to physically count its F-16s after shooting down 2 Indian jets, capturing Abhinandan, as part of an end-user agreement. All F-16s were present & accounted for. None missing”