In­dia mourns first & only five-star of­fi­cer of IAF

The Times of India (New Delhi edition) - - TIMES NATION - AGEN­CIES

New Delhi: Con­do­lence mes­sages poured in from all over, in­clud­ing the govern­ment and top po­lit­i­cal lead­ers, af­ter mar­shal of the In­dian Air Force Arjan Singh passed away here on Satur­day.

“My thoughts are with his fam­ily and those mourn­ing the demise of a dis­tin­guished air war­rior and fine hu­man, Mar­shal of the IAF Arjan Singh. RIP,” tweeted PM Naren­dra Modi.

Pres­i­dent Ram Nath Kovind said: “Sad at demise of a great air war­rior and Mar­shal of the Air Force Arjan Singh.”

“He was an ex­cep­tional per­son. He was in­spi­ra­tional. He main­tained the dig­nity of a sol­dier. His po­si­tions and the work he has done is very rare,” said de­fence min­is­ter Nir­mala Sithara­man.

BJP pres­i­dent Amit Shah tweeted: “Mar­shal of IAF Arjan Singhji led the In­dian Air Force through his ex­em­plary lead­er­ship. His rich con­tri­bu­tion to moth­er­land is ven­er­a­ble.”

Congress pres­i­dent So­nia Gandhi de­scribed Arjan Singh as an “out­stand­ing sol­dier and a di­plo­mat who led from the front”.

Singh, the orig­i­nal “air war­rior”, in­spired the IAF to achieve great heights dur­ing his ser­vice. Af­ter re­tire­ment, he re­mained an awe-in­spir­ing fig­ure for the armed forces as a whole and was a highly re­spected public fig­ure.

The IAF’s his­tory of its op­er­a­tions ac­knowl­edges it “suf­fered dis­pro­por­tion­ately higher losses” than the Pak­istan air force in 1965. But the force, un­der Singh, showed “re­silience and de­ter­mi­na­tion” to grad­u­ally turn the ta­bles with ef­fec­tive coun­ter­strikes till the cease­fire came into ef­fect on Septem­ber 22.

Singh over­saw the tran­si­tion of the IAF from pro­pel­ler craft to a jet fleet, and was given diplo­matic as­sign­ments af­ter he re­tired at the early age of 50 years.

The In­dian armed forces have had only three Mar­shal- rank of­fi­cers, the high­est hon­orary rank pos­si­ble, till now. The first, Field Mar­shal Sam Manek­shaw, re­garded as the ar­chi­tect of the swift mil­i­tary oper­a­tion to lib­er­ate Bangladesh in 1971, died in 2008 at the age of 94. Field Mar­shal K M Cari­appa, the first com­man­der-in-chief of the Army, died in 1993 at the age of 94. Arjan Singh was IAF chief from 1964 to 1969, and, in De­cem­ber 1965, be­came the first one to be pro­moted to the rank of Air Chief Mar­shal af­ter he suc­cess­fully steered his force dur­ing the Indo-Pak war.

Com­mis­sioned into the Royal In­dian Air Force in De­cem­ber 1939, sim­i­lar­i­ties be­tween Manek­shaw and Singh, in fact, are quite strik-

long­est ten­ure as the AOC of Op­er­a­tional Com­mand,

ing. Both won their mil­i­tary spurs dur­ing the Burma cam­paign of World War-II.

If Manek­shaw won a Mil­i­tary Cross, Singh was awarded a Dis­tin­guished Fly­ing Cross. Later, con­duct­ing them­selves with rare elan, both reached the very top in their ser­vice.

Singh was awarded the Dis­tin­guished Fly­ing Cross by Louis Mount­bat­ten, then supreme Al­lied com­man­der, South­east Asia, who de­scribed him as “a fear­less and ex­cep­tional pi­lot”.

In 1971, he be­came In­dia’s am­bas­sador to Switzer­land, and then the high com­mis­sioner in Kenya in 1974. He has also served as In­dia’s am­bas­sador to the Vatican.

Later on, he re­turned to In­dia and served as the lieu­tenant-gover­nor of Delhi in 1989-90. In 2002, Arjan Singh be­came the only IAF vet­eran to be given the five-star rank.

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