OUR HEROES | Air Chief Marshal I H Latif, PVSM
AIR CHIEF Marshal Idris Hassan Latif was born on June 9 1923 at Hyderabad, Deccan. Educated at the Nizam?s College, Hyderabad, Latif and his family were close friends of the erstwhile Nawabs of Bhopal and used to frequently visit the place. At the age of 18 Idris Latif joined the Royal Indian Air Force in 1941.Updated: Mar 11, 2006 14:21 IST
AIR CHIEF Marshal Idris Hassan Latif was born on June 9 1923 at Hyderabad, Deccan. Educated at the Nizam’s College, Hyderabad, Latif and his family were close friends of the erstwhile Nawabs of Bhopal and used to frequently visit the place. At the age of 18 Idris Latif joined the Royal Indian Air Force in 1941.
During his entire service he has visited Bhopal a number of times and admires the spirit and hospitality of the people here. His first posting was to the No.2 Coastal Defence Flight in Karachi, where he flew vintage biplane aircrafts like the Wapiti, Audaxes and Harts, on Anti-Submarine flights over the Arabian Sea.
During 1943-44, he was one of the few Indian pilots to be seconded to the Royal Air Force in the United Kingdom. There he underwent training on more contemporary aircraft like the Hurricane and Spitfire, with Operational squadrons of the RAF. He returned to India in 1944 and took part in the Burma campaign, flying the Hawker Hurricane for No.3 Squadron.
ACM Latif said when partition bought with it the division of the armed forces, he as a Muslim officer was faced with the choice of joining either India or Pakistan.
But he was very clear that his future lay with India and that religion and country were not interlinked. It was no surprise that Latif made his way to become the first Muslim Chief of Air Staff of the Indian Air Force.
During the 1971 War, Latif was the ACAS (Plans). He was keenly involved in flying to the frontline squadrons and getting first hand information on the progress of the war and the requirements of the units if any. Latif was in the Eastern Sector at Shillong when the surrender in East Pakistan took place.
As the first Muslim Chief of Air Staff of the IAF, Latif was involved fully in the re-equipment and modernisation plans of the air force. He convinced the government to approve the procurement of the Jaguar strike aircraft, a proposal which was lying dormant for over eight years. He also held negotiations with the Russians and saw the induction of the MiG-23 and later, the MiG-25 aircraft into the IAF.
Flying has always been a passion to Latif, and throughout his tenure, he never lost an opportunity to fly. In fact right up to the end of his career in the Air Force, Air Chief Marshal Latif was interested in flying and more flying. One of the last acts before retirement was to fly in the trisonic MiG-25, which was then just assembled from a semi-knocked down condition by the Air Force personnel.
Idris Latif retired in 1981, after which he has been the Governor of Maharashtra and Indian Ambassador to France. On completion of tenure, he left France in 1988 and settled in his home place in Hyderabad. ACM Latif always felt that culturally Bhopal and Hyderabad were quite similar but more needed to be done economically.
According to him Madhya Pradesh has an untapped tourism potential which if taken on the right track will further boost its economic growth and infrastructure. We wish ACM Latif all the best.