Mar­shal Ar­jan Singh dies, In­dia mourns

TRIB­UTE PM, de­fence min re­call Pak war hero’s deeds

The Free Press Journal - - FRONT PAGE - AGEN­CIES

War hero Mar­shal Ar­jan Singh, who led the In­dian Air Force dur­ing the 1965 In­dia-Pak­istan con­flict, died on Saturday evening. IAF sources said he passed away around 7.30 p.m.

Ninety-eight-year-old Singh, the only of­fi­cer of the IAF to be pro­moted to five-star rank, equal to a Field Mar­shal in the Army, was ad­mit­ted to the Army’s Re­search and Re­fer­ral hos­pi­tal this morn­ing af­ter he suf­fered a car­diac ar­rest, the de­fence min­istry said.

Ear­lier in the day, Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi, De­fence Min­is­ter Nir­mala Sithara­man and the three Ser­vice chiefs – Gen. Bipin Rawat, Ad­mi­ral Su­nil Lanba and Air Chief Mar­shal Biren­der Singh Dhanoa – vis­ited Singh at the hos­pi­tal.

An icon in the coun­try's mil­i­tary his­tory, Singh had led a fledg­ling IAF in the 1965 Indo-Pak war when he was just a 44-year-old.

As Pak­istan launched its Op­er­a­tion Grand Slam with an ar­moured thrust tar­geted at the vi­tal town of Akhnoor in Jammu and Kash­mir, he led the IAF through the war with courage, de­ter­mi­na­tion and pro­fes­sional skill.

The fighter pi­lot, who in­spired the IAF de­spite con­straints on the full-scale use of air com­bat power, was awarded the Padma Vib­hushan, the sec­ond high­est civil­ian hon­our, in 1965.

Born on April 15, 1919 in Lyallpur in Pun­jab in un­di­vided In­dia, his fa­ther, grand­fa­ther and great grand­fa­ther had served in the cav­alry.

Ed­u­cated at Mont­gomery, Bri­tish In­dia (now in Pak­istan), he had joined the RAF Col­lege, Cran­well in 1938 and was com­mis­sioned as a Pi­lot Of­fi­cer in De­cem­ber the fol­low­ing year.

Singh had led an IAF squadron into com­bat dur­ing the 1944 Arakan Cam­paign and was awarded the Dis­tin­guished Fly­ing Cross (DFC) that year. He was the IAF chief from Au­gust one, 1964 till July 15, 1969.

Field Mar­shals Sam Manek­shaw and K M Cari­appa of the Army were the two other of­fi­cers with a five-star rank.

Af­ter his re­tire­ment from the air force, Singh was ap­pointed as the In­dia's Am­bas­sador to Switzer­land in 1971 and con­cur­rently served as the Am­bas­sador to the Vatican.

He was also the High Com­mis­sioner to Kenya in 1974.

Singh served as a mem­ber of the Na­tional Com­mis­sion for Mi­nori­ties and was also the Lieu­tenant Gov­er­nor of Delhi. He was made Mar­shal of the Air Force in Jan­uary 2002.

The fighter air­craft base at Pana­garh in West Ben­gal was named in his hon­our on his birth­day last year.

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