President Ram Nath Kovind led the nation today in paying final tributes to Marshal of the Indian Air Force Arjan Singh, hero of 1965 India-Pakistan war and the only Air Force officer to be promoted to five-star rank.
Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman laid a wreath on behalf of herself and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is in Gujarat for the inauguration of Sardar Sarovar Dam.
The three service chiefs –Air Chief Marshal Birender Singh Dhanoa, Naval chief Admiral Sunil Lanba, Army Chief General Bipin Rawat — as well as Minister of State Housing and Urban Affairs, Hardeep Puri were also present.
Among other dignitaries who were seen streaming in were Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, MoS for External Affairs and former Army chief V K Singh, former defence minister A K Antony and Congress MP Karan Singh.
Former Indian Air Force (IAF) chiefs S P Tyagi, N C Suri and Anil Y Tipnis as well as several decorated officers who served under Arjan Singh during the 1965 war were also present.
Army Chief General Bipin Rawat described the five-star ranking officer as “a legend, an icon, a pilot-chief who led from the front and a philanthropist to the core”.
He recalled Singh’s immense contribution as the Air Chief during the 1965 India-Pakistan war, the first major air battle of the IAF after independence. “It was to his credit that despite initial setbacks, we were able to ‘overcome and overwhelm’ the enemy and spoil their design to annex Jammu and Kashmir,” Air Chief Marshal B S Dhanoa told reporters.
Arjan Singh’s daughter, Asha Singh, and other members of the family, including his niece and actor Mandira Bedi, were present at the officer’s residence, where his mortal remains lie in state. His son Arvind Singh is expected to arrive later this evening from Arizona, US. The tricolour will fly at half mast at all government buildings in the national capital tomorrow in the honour of the military legend.
The IAF patriarch will be given a state funeral at 9.30 am tomorrow at Brar Square, Sitharamnan told reporters. The cortege will leave on a gun carriage from Arjan Singh’s 7-A Kautilya Marg residence at 8.30 am. A gun salute will be given, and if weather permits, a fly past will also take place, the defence minister said.
Arjan Singh’s family has also planned a ritual for the funeral.
An icon of India’s military history, 98-year-old Singh breathed his last at an Army hospital here yesterday.