Chennai: Tamil Nadu chief minister K Palaniswami on Friday urged the Prime Minister Narendra Modi to award Param Vir Chakra, the country's highest military honour to wing commander Abhinandan Varthaman who successfully returned to India from Pakistan after shooting down a Pakistani F-16 in mid-air combat.

In a letter written to the Prime Minister, Palaniswami said that the Indian Air Force pilot, who is a native of Tamil Nadu, displayed tact and confidence in the face of adversity, and that it is only appropriate that he be awarded the highest military honour.

He stated that Varthaman was released by Pakistan "due to the diplomatic initiatives" of the Prime Minister and "intense international pressure".

"Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman displayed amazing poise and confidence in the face of adverse conditions, which has won him many hearts across the country. It is appropriate that he be awarded India's highest military honour Param Vir Chakra (PVC) for displaying most inimitable gallantry and valour," the letter from the chief minister said.

"I request the Government of India to confer the nation's highest military honour, Param Vir Chakra, on wing commander Abhinandan Varthaman," the letter added.

In his letter, Palaniswami also recalled the incident where the MiG-21 Bison aircraft piloted by Varthaman shot down a Pakistan Air Force fighter (F-16) when it tried to violate India's air space.

Varthaman unfortunately landed in Pakistan and was taken into custody on February 27 and returned home on March 1 after Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan announced that he would be released as a "gesture of peace".

The Param Vir Chakra "is awarded for most conspicuous bravery or some daring or pre-eminent act of valour or self-sacrifice, in the presence of the enemy, whether on land, at sea, or in the air.