Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh has offered to receive Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman at the Attari border in Amritsar district when the Indian Air Force pilot arrives on Friday after being released by Pakistan.

The Congress leader tweeted his request to Prime Minister Narendra Modi after Pakistan PM Imran Khan’s announcement that the IAF pilot would be released on March 1.

“Dear @narendramodi ji, I’m touring the border areas of Punjab & I’m presently in Amritsar. Came to know that @pid_gov has decided to release #AbhinandanVartaman from Wagha. It will be a honour for me to go and receive him, as he and his father are alumnus of the National Defence Academy as I am,” Singh wrote.

Meanwhile, official sources said in New Delhi that a delegation of IAF will on Friday receive Wing Commander Varthaman at the Wagah border.

Varthaman’s MiG 21 was shot and he bailed out after bringing down one Pakistani F-16 fighter during a dogfight to repel a Pakistani attack on Wednesday morning. He has been in Pakistan since then.

The chief minister arrived here this evening as part of his visit to border areas to take stock of situation and instil confidence among the people in the wake of heightened tensions.

“Amaridner Singh has offered to receive Indian Air Force Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman at the border on his arrival from Pakistan,” the Chief Minister’s Officer said in a statement.

Wing Commander Abhinandan’s father S Varthaman retired as an Air Marshal.

The chief minister later said it was a spontaneous gesture on his part and a desire that came from his heart, given the prevailing situation.

Amarinder had earlier, in an informal interaction with mediapersons in Jalandhar, welcomed the announcement of the Pakistani prime minister and termed the decision to release Abhinandan a goodwill gesture that could help ease the tensions at the border.

Following reports of the IAF pilot’s capture by Pakistan, the chief minister had urged the Indian government to take all possible steps to secure his early release. He had also urged Pakistan to ensure the officer’s safety and wellbeing as per the Geneva Conventions.

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