Arjan Singh, Marshal of the Indian Air Force and key figure in 1965 Pak war, dies at 98

Hindustan Times, New Delhi | By
Sep 17, 2017 09:01 AM IST

Arjan Singh is the first and only officer to have been elevated to Marshal of the Indian Air Force. He died on Saturday.

War hero Marshal Arjan Singh, who led the Indian Air Force during the 1965 India-Pakistan conflict, died on Saturday.

File photo of Marshal of the Indian Air Force Arjan Singh who passed away at the age of 98.(PTI Photo)
File photo of Marshal of the Indian Air Force Arjan Singh who passed away at the age of 98.(PTI Photo)

In a statement, the Indian Air Force (IAF) said Singh died at 7:47pm after being admitted to the Army’s R&R hospital following a cardiac arrest.

The former IAF chief had played a key role in India’s victory in the 1965 war against Pakistan.

Singh was the IAF chief from August 1964-69. He was the first Indian Air Chief to be elevated to the rank of Air Chief Marshal on January 16, 1966.

In recognition of his lifelong services, the government conferred the rank of the “Marshal of the Indian Air Force” on Arjan Singh on January 28, 2002 making him the first and the only ‘Five Star’ rank officer with the Indian Air Force. Marshal of the Air Force is equivalent to a Field Marshal in the army.

Earlier in the evening, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman met Singh at the hospital. He was admitted to the intensive care unit of the hospital after cardiovascular complications.

“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,” the Prime Minister tweeted.

President Ram Nath Kovind, BJP president Amit Shah, Union ministers Rajnath Singh, Arun Jaitley and Ravi Shankar Prasad and Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala also condoled Singh’s death.

According to the IAF’s official website, Singh’s “testing time came in September 1965, when the subcontinent was plunged into war. When Pakistan launched its Operation Grand Slam, in which an armoured thrust targeted the vital town of Akhnur, he was summoned into the defence minister’s office with a request for air support.”

“With a characteristic non-chalance, he replied ‘ an hour.’ And true enough, the air force struck the Pakistani offensive in an hour. He led the air force through the war showing successful leadership and effort.”

He also held the view that the IAF should have been used in the 1962 India-China war.

Singh was awarded the Padma Vibhushan for his leadership during the 1965 War and subsequently the rank of the CAS was upgraded to that of Air Chief Marshal. He retired in July 1969, thereupon accepting ambassadorship to Switzerland. He remained a flyer till the end of his tenure in the IAF, visiting forward squadrons and units and flying with them.

In his career, Arjan Singh had flown more than 60 types of aircraft ranging from pre-World War II era biplanes to Gnats and Vampires. On August 15, 1947, he led a fly past over the Red fort in Delhi.

Six years ago, the veteran lost his wife Teji Arjan Singh on his birthday, April 15. On the occasion of his 60th anniversary, while talking about his diamond jubilee secret, Singh told this correspondent, “I tell Teji daily I love her.”

Singh is survived by a son and daughter.

(with PTI inputs)

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