Nation bids adieu to Indian Air Force hero Marshal Arjan Singh

India today bid farewell to its legendary Marshal of the Indian Air Force Arjan Singh and former chief of the Indian Air Force  who was cremated with full state honours including a flypast by fighter jets.

Marshal of Indian Air Force Arjan SinghSingh's body was consigned to the flames amid chanting of hymns at the Brar Square in Delhi Cantonment in the presence of senior political leaders and top brass of the Indian Military.

A 17-gun salute was accorded to Singh as Sukhoi jets carried out a flypast in the 'missing man formation' in honour of the 1965 war hero who died on Saturday. There was a flypast by IAF copters also.

Among those present were President Ram Nath Kovind, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and the three chiefs of the armed forces, who on Saturday had visited Singh's residence to convey their condolences.

Also present was actor and TV personality Mandira Bedi. Arjan's wife Teji Singh, who died in 2011, was Bedi's maternal aunt. Air Chief Marshal Arjan Singh had married Teji Singh in 1948.

Bharatiya Janata Party stalwart L K Advani was also present.

The national flag flew at half-mast at all government buildings in the national capital in honour of the iconic hero of the 1965 India-Pakistan war, who was the only IAF officer to be promoted to five-star rank.

Earlier, Singh's body, wrapped in a flag, was taken to the Brar Square crematorium from his residence on a gun carriage. A number of former chiefs of the Army and Air Force and Singh's family members paid tributes to the departed military icon at Brar Sqare.

A number of people including Sitharaman were seen getting emotional when Singh's body was consigned to the flames.

One of the finest soldiers of India, Singh, who had led a young Indian Air Force during the 1965 India-Pakistan war, died on Saturday following a cardiac arrest at the age of 98.

Singh was the only IAF officer to attain five-star rank, equivalent to the Army's field marshal. An exceptional pilot, he played a major role in transforming the IAF into one of the most potent air forces globally and the fourth biggest in the world.

Known as a man of few words, Singh was a fearless pilot and had profound knowledge about air power and applied it in a wide spectrum of areas.

Singh had led the IAF during the 1965 war and denied success to Pakistan's air force though it was better equipped with American Sabre and Starfighter F-104 jets, and logistic support.

4th-gen soldier
Air Marshal Arjan Singh was the fourth generation soldier from his family, but the first to become a commissioned officer. His great-grandfather Sultana Singh was a Naib Risaldar in the Guides Cavalry of the British Indian Army, where he enlisted in 1854. Sultana Singh was killed during the Afghan campaign of 1879.

Born in 1919, Arjan Singh joined the British Indian Air Force at the age of 19 in 1938 as pilot officer. He rose through the ranks fast and at the time of Independence, he was a wing commander and acting group captain.

Arjan Singh led the first fly-past of the Indian Air Force over the Red Fort as part of the Independence Day celebrations on 15 August 1947. He became the Chief of Air Staff in 1964 at the age of only 45.

The following year, he played the decisive role in 1965-India-Pakistan war. He was awarded Padma Vibhushan - second highest civilian award in the country - for his services in the war.

Arjan Singh is the only Air Force chief who held the position for five years as against the norm of two-and-a-half to three years.

After IAF
After his retirement in 1969, Arjan Singh was made Ambassador to Switzerland in 1971. He concurrently held the position of Ambassador to the Vatican. From Switzerland, he moved to Kenya as High Commissioner in 1974 and stayed there till 1977.

From 1975 to 1981, Arjan Singh served on the National Commission for Minorities. He was made the Lieutenant Governor of Delhi for one year between December 1989 and December 1990. Delhi did not have a chief minister then.

On the Republic Day in 2002, the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government elevated Air Chief Marshal Arjan Singh to five-star rank.