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Sitrep | Arjan Singh laid foundations of 1971 Victory

‘Marshal of the IAF Arjan Singh’s strategic vision, foresight and hard work provided the framework for the strategic victory in 1971’

columns Updated: Sep 24, 2017 15:29 IST
Mandeep Singh Bajwa
Mandeep Singh Bajwa
Hindustan Times
Arjan Singh,1971 war,IAF Arjan Singh
The then Air Chief Marshal Arjan Singh visiting the MiG-21 squadrons based at Tezpur in Assam in the late 1960s.(

Marshal of the IAF Arjan Singh made an outstanding contribution to the country’s defence and air force. By far, his most exceptional role was in analysing the IAF’s strengths and weaknesses, which showed up during the 1965 war, and applying necessary correctives. The major lesson learned was that the Service had been preparing for a medium to long-duration war. What was needed was a change in mindset, planning, logistics and operational dynamics for a short war of intense proportions. This was done through detailed planning and operational discussions. Personnel at all levels were briefed on the changed strategy for future wars. We saw that this worked perfectly in 1971 as the IAF achieved air supremacy over East Pakistan within three days and caused heavy attrition to the Pakistan Air Force in the West.

The Army had been crying itself hoarse about the lack of adequate air support with some reason. The reasons therein were analysed and solutions produced after joint consultations. Arjan Singh went down to micro-levels in this matter. He correctly deduced that the unreliability of World War-2 vintage wireless sets prevented forward air controllers from communicating with the aircraft and providing targets and feedback. Therefore, state-of-the-art communications equipment was sourced. The Army was thoroughly impressed with the ground support provided in East Pakistan in 1971.

Focusing on leadership at the higher level, Arjan Singh advocated joint planning with other Services, which was lacking in 1965. This paid rich dividends during the later confrontation with Pakistan. The IAF embarked on a concentrated period of modernisation, expansion and solidification. Many new fighter aircraft, equipment and systems such as the MiG-21, Sukhoi-7, HF-24 and SAM-3 surface-to-air missiles were inducted. Arjan Singh’s foresight, hard work and strategic vision truly provided the underpinnings of our stirring victory in 1971.

1st Maharaja Yadvindra Singh lecture

Tony McClenaghan will deliver the 1st Maharaja Yadvindra Singh Memorial Lecture on the princely states’ contribution to World War 1 under the aegis of the Centre for Indian Military History at the CRRID auditorium on Tuesday, September 26. He is a world authority on the Indian States Forces and is currently the secretary of the Indian Military Historical Society.

Dograi Day commemoration

It was an emotional moment to represent my late father at his old formation’s Dograi Day commemoration, place a wreath on the war memorial and interact with officers and Jawans. Located in a neat and clean new military station, the formation organised the remembrance in the Army’s usual style with grace and meticulousness. Defending a vital sector of the border, we can be rest assured that the conquerors of Dograi in 1965 will perform their tasks with the same aplomb and grit.

Women’s AFPI

The Armed Forces Preparatory Institute for Women at Mohali has grown from strength to strength. The efforts of it’s dynamic director, General IP Singh and his staff are soon to bear fruit. I’m informed that the first batch to appear for the Combined Defence Services examination will do so in November this year. The best of luck to them! The girls are currently studying for their graduation at MCM DAV College, Chandigarh.

Nathu La

Why is there no commemoration of the bloody nose given by our troops to the Chinese fifty years ago at Nathu La?

(Please write in with your narratives of war and military life to or call/WhatsApp on 093161-35343)

First Published: Sep 24, 2017 15:29 IST