NEW DELHI: A grateful nation on Monday bid a tearful adieu to Marshal of the Air Force Arjan Singh, with the iconic “air warrior” being cremated with full state honours which included an aerial salute by the “missing man flyby” by fighter jets and a booming 17-gun salute by the ceremonial artillery battery here.
The mortal remains of Arjan Singh (98), who was the country’s last surviving five-star general, were consigned to flames amid religious rituals by Sikh priests at Brar Square in Delhi Cantonment in presence of family members, former PM Manmohan Singh, BJP veteran L K Advani, defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman, the three Service chiefs and several veterans, among others.
“One thing that struck me about my father was that he was always humble. He always treated people well,” said Arjan Singh’s son Arvind, who lit the pyre. His sister Asha added, “It’s the biggest loss for me. He was a great human being and an inspiration. I’m glad he will live on in the annals of history.”
Awarded a Distinguished Flying Cross during Burma campaign of World War-II, Arjan Singh was IAF chief from 1964 to 1969 and successfully steered the force during the 1965 Indo-Pak war after initial setbacks. In 2002, he became only the third Service chief to be conferred with the Field Marshal-rank, the highest honorary rank in the armed forces, after former Army chiefs Sam Manekshaw and K M Cariappa. Singh set high standards for IAF with his daredevil combat flying and upright conduct during service, and later served as India’s envoy to Switzerland and Kenya in the 1970s as well as the Lt-Governor of Delhi during 1989-90. A philanthropist, he once donated Rs 2 crore for the welfare of retired IAF personnel and their families.
The demise of Arjan Singh brings to an end the awe-inspiring troika of the country’s three five-star generals till now.
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