It is ironic that the MiG 21 Bison is to be phased out of the Indian Air Force at the end of 2019. And it is tragic that this old, plagued-by-problems aircraft that has cost over 170 lives of Indian pilots and is diabolically nicknamed the flying coffin, was up in the air at all in an aerial conflict in the beginning of 2019.
Even though it's an updated version after the MiG 21 FL was decommissioned by the Indian Air Force in 2013, in today’s context, a MiG 21 Bison has a limited combat role. To send it up against F-16s, if that is what India did, was like sending a pigeon to fight a falcon. Wing Commander Abhinandan, who reportedly engaged one of the F-16s had no chance in terms of firepower and manoeuvrability. It was nowhere near an even playing field in the air.
But boy, did he make us proud!
All of India must have seen the unverified video put out by Pakistan in contravention of the Geneva Convention on Prisoners of War (that proscribes the parading of PoWs). They must have also seen the officer giving his name and his serial number and not letting the enemy cow him down. Wing Commander Abhinandan must be going through hell. His family, friends and a nation of 1.2 billion are in shock and dismay. India salutes him for showing grace in the face of grave danger. This author just loved the way he asked his captors — blindfolded as he was — if he was with the Pakistani Army and would they please clarify.
His voice never quavered. He stood tall, and even though they had tied him up with a rope, he showed great riposte when he said, “Under the rules, I do not have to give you any more information." And they had no idea what to do.
Pakistan may have released the unverified video of his captivity to rub India’s nose in the mud but, thanks to Wing Commander Abhinandan, it delivered the exact opposite result. Because, in those few minutes in the unverified video, the way he conducted himself with pride and poise, he showed the world what Indian soldiers are made of. It is a grateful nation that stands by Wing Commander Abhinandan because, in him, all those faceless pilots who went and destroyed JeM camps in their Mirages now have a face India can identify with.
For what it is worth, India must also now wake up and ensure that her ace guns are not jeopardised by second rate or poor or limited armament. If one truly wishes to honour Wing Commander Abhinandan and the Indian Armed Forces, the country should stop with the political infighting and go defence hardware shopping. Not to repeat oneself but to put him in a MiG 21 Bison is criminal. This aircraft first flew in 1956 but the remnants of the 11,500 aircraft built still remain in India.
He was probably on a recce flight or simply spotting since it is inconceivably off the charts that he would have been sent into combat. The Wing Commander was clearly unable, with his dated machine, to outwit any air-to-air, surface-to-air missile or even ground fire and went down. After which, he stood up and he is still standing erect with all of India behind him.
It is incumbent upon the military authorities and the government in New Delhi to see the Wing Commander as the symbol of the country and demand from Pakistan the reassurance of his rights and protection. Here is an officer and gentleman who will come back to a ticker tape parade in India for sure. Sooner the better for India, for Pakistan, and for the world at large.
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Updated Date: Feb 28, 2019 13:27:45 IST