Date of Birth: Jul 8,1934
Service: Air force
Last Rank: Air Commodore
Unit: 3 Squadron
Years of Service: 1956-1987
Battles/Wars: 1971 operations
Awards: Padma Bhushan, Vir Chakra
Date of Demise: Aug 04, 2013
Air Commodore Jasjit Singh AVSM, VrC, VM was a military officer,writer and military strategist. He was born on July 8, 1934. He was one of the most decorated officers in the Air Force. He had a glittering career in the Air Force as a fighter pilot where he rose up to the ranks of Air Commodore. He served for almost five decades in the Air Force in some capacity. His wife served as a doctor in the IAF. Their elder son Ajay Singh also served in the Air Force but retired early after a serious injury. He is presently working as a strategic analyst in the Air Force. Their younger son is serving as an officer in the Navy. His brother Charanjit Singh also served in the Air Force and won the Vir Chakra for his contributions in the 1971 operations.
Air Cmde Jasjit Singh started his career in the Air Force in 1956. He flew a variety of fighter jets like Vampires, Mysteres and MiG-21s. He was a very accomplished and experienced fighter pilot. He was posted as a staff officer at Air Force Headquarters just before the 1971 war but he wanted to be part of the operations. He ot an attachment to a frontline unit. He flew in the 1971 Cactus Lily operations with No.3 Squadron at Sirsa. He flew many operational missions over well entrenched and heavily fortified enemy areas. He faced heavy ground opposition from the enemy. He flew the Mystere fighter bomber, which was vulnerable in the skies to ground attacks. He braved all of them and successfully carried out his operations. In the process he led the troops to destroy many enemy tanks in the area. They also destroyed enemy gun positons and bunkers and thus contributed in a big way in the successful 1971 operations. His contributions were recognized and he was awarded the Vir Chakra for his role in the war. He subsequently converted to the MiG-21 and was awarded the Vayu Sena Medal in 1974.
He then worked as the Director of Operations of the Air Force from 1978. He was known as a mater strategist and an astute thinker and with his experience and skills, was deemed as the perfect officer for the job. He was later conferred the Ati Vishisht Seva medal in 1984 for his services in his post. He retired from the Air Force in 1987. He however remained as the head of the Institute for Defense Studies and Analysis. He was the longest continuously serving Director in the IDSC as he served from 1987 to 2001. He gave the institution a strong international profile. He was highly regarded in international strategic circles. He also focused on mentoring and training young researchers. Many of them have gained national and international visibility.
After leaving the IDSA he set up and directed the Centre for Air Power Studies for twelve years. In his new role, not only did he continue with the national security studies but also brought a sharp focus on the changing role of the Indian Air Force, India as a space power and the growing importance of space security in India’s national security. Higher defence organisation remained a passion for him. He had the ability to identify crucial areas for research. He had himself demystified the intricacies of India defence budget. After the 1998 nuclear tests, he along with many others began to focus on nuclear doctrine, nuclear diplomacy, the role of India in a newly emerging world order and national security management. He also worked on energy security issues when there was very less awareness about it and for a brief period took a special interest in cyber security too. Despite his advancing years, his ability to think out-of-the-box made him a very important figure and successful in every endeavour that he undertook. He wrote many book on military strategy among other things and his ideas have been incorporated by the governments numerous times. As Assistant Director Personnel (Officers) in 1969, he wrote the seminal paper on cadre management in the IAF. His ideas were partially put into practice in 1976.
His books were insightful and a guiding light for an entire generation of officers in the Air Force and the Indian Government while implementing strategies. He was a master military strategist and was consulted for his counsel on all higher level matters of military strategies. He was a much respected and revered figure in the military strategy space. He was understood to be close to Air Marshal Arjun Singh and was the authorized biographer of Air Marshal Arjun Singh. He was awarded the Padma Bhushan in 2006 for his lifetime achievements and overall contributions to the country.
He passed away on 04 August 2013 at the age of 79 after suffering a bout of Pneumonia. India had lost an inspirational military leader, a brilliant strategic thinker and a prolific author on military affairs. Tributes poured in from all corners of India and abroad. Having inspired a large number of young researchers, military personnel, diplomats and academics in strategic thinking, Air Cmde Jasjit Singh had a large following. He has been described as a visionary, a leader, a motivator and a nationalist. He remains the most decorated Air Force officer of India.
The citation for the Vir Chakra awarded to him reads:
During the operations against Pakistan in December 1971 Squadron Leader Jasjit Singh flew a number of operational missions over heavily defended enemy areas. In spite of heavy ground opposition, he pressed home his attacks and destroyed a number of enemy tanks, gun positions and bunkers. Throughout the operations, Squadron Leader Jasjit Singh displayed gallantry, determination and devotion to duty of a high order.
He was a very accomplished writer and strategist. he wrote numerous books on military strategies and military affairs and many of his works were incorporated by the defence and the government. He was the authorized writer for the biography on Air Marshal Arjun Singh, called ‘The Icon’. Some of his other works are mentioned here.
Tributes showered from all over the world after the news of his death broke out. Dr. Manmohan Singh, Former Prime Minister of India: The Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh, has condoled the passing away of eminent strategic thinker on military affairs, Air Commodore (Retd) Jasjit Singh. Following is the text of the Prime Minister’s condolence message : “I was deeply saddened by the passing away of Air Commodore (Retd) Jasjit Singh, a brave soldier, an inspirational military leader, a brilliant strategic thinker and a prolific author on military affairs. I also knew him to be a warm, kind and compassionate human being. The nation is grateful for his enormous service to the nation – on the battlefield, in training generations of Air Force leaders, in building institutions such as the Institute of Defence and Strategic Analysis and Centre for Air Power Studies and providing intellectual vision for India’s defence and strategic planning. I am sure that his writings and the institutions that he helped build will continue to serve our country well.” AVM DN Ganesh (Retd): However well we may think we prepare for the inevitable, it always takes us by surprise and shock. Air Commodore Jasjit Singh was an inspiration and like many of our teachers of yore, taught not only the subject at hand, but of life and how to address it. An incisive, logical mind which understood the world we live in without letting systemic inadequacies cloud the clarity of his thinking or his jest for life. Rest in peace, Sir! Wg Cdr R V Raman : Even if someone occupies the office of JS sir in CAPS, the void would remain. His chair may be replaced but he, is irreplaceable. There may be many DG’s to come, but there will never be another JS. Amongst the many things that I learnt from him while in CAPS, the first was the lesson in being humble. Second was that one should never stop working until the last day of life. He had the time for each one of us, despite his iconic status and a busy schedule. His words of advice shall always be my guiding light. “Shall miss you immensely sir”. Dr. Y Ashok Babu : He is the instrumental man for shaping modern Indian Air combat doctrine. Its a great loss for Indian security think tank, May his soul rest peace. Manipur Women Gun Survivors Network : The over 1000 women strong network of Manipur Gun Survivors Network pay our deepest condolences at the sad demise of Air Commodore Jasjit Singh. Air Commodore was a friend, a guide and an inspiration in the work on women and micro-disarmament in our efforts to bring peace in one of India’s worst conflict ridden zone. He was due to visit Manipur to collaborate with Manipur University but left for heavenly abode. Network founder, Ms Binalakshmi Nepram attended his funeral on 4 August 2013 wherein she placed a “Khudei” a handwoven cloth made by women of Manipur on his final journey. May his soul RIP. May his vision, his courage, his dedication to continue its onward journey. Sverre Lodgaard : I was very sad to get your message. Not only was Jasjit a dear colleague, one of the class players in international discussions; I also considered him a dear friend. The first time we met was at a meeting in Japan in 1992. Upon arrival, we went from the airport together, without saying much as we were both very tired. We talked all the more on later occasions. The last time I saw him was at the airport in Nice, of all places. I mention it because meeting him was always a high moment, something to remember. I shall miss him sorely. Gp Capt Ashok K Chordia : Air Cmde Jasjit Singh was an “INSTITUTION”. He was the “Abdul Kalaam” of the strategic community in general and the IAF in particular. He ignited minds and taught us to think freely, to think big and to look way ahead into the future – he taught us to “SOAR”. I owe a pleasant transformation in my life to my association with him, when I joined CAPS as a Senior Fellow. Three years that I spent under his tutelage has been the most rewarding period of my life. Life at CAPS will never be the same ever again. May his soul rest in peace. May he continue to guide us from the heavens high above. Caron Tauro : Great men… Legends… Awe-inspiring personality…all these used to be mere words to describe war heroes and kings in textbooks, until I met him. Standing tall at a little above six feet and the added height of his signature red turban, Air Commodore Jasjit Singh was a man worth all the adjectives. Seldom am I awestruck by any person and I definitely was awestruck by him, as my friends would bear witness. Two months of working under his guidance, I have been transformed. The vast ocean of knowledge he had of everything from history to geography to science to aeronautics to strategy to economics. He will always remain my first inspiration and motivation for everything I do professionally in the strategic community. His anecdotes remain fresh in my mind and the long conversations we had about everything and anything from aerospace power to work ethics. I will treasure each advice he gave me and use it everywhere I go. His mantra for success “self discipline, self denial and self control” will always be my guiding light. I just had the privilege of spending two months under his guidance, but those two months were so enriching that it felt like a year. He gave me the freedom to think and never negated my ideas. His encouragement was more precious to me than winning any prize. His faith and belief in young minds was immense. He made me believe in myself. He changed my own perception of myself. He taught me that hard work and honesty speaks for itself in every sphere. Arvind kumar, Manipal University : Manipal University is shocked and in deep grief to hear this sudden demise of Air Commodore Jasjit Singh. We are still unable to accept the fact that he left us all alone for good. It is a great loss to us and the country. May God give strength to the family during this difficult time. Our heartfelt condolences to the family of Air Commodore Jasjit Singh. May his soul rest in peace. We are with you in this moment of grief and sorrow. Air Commodore Singh was a true friend, philosopher and guide to Manipal University. His inspirational words always motivated young minds – both students and the faculty. He was a patriot to the core and always argued for promoting India’s interests across the globe. All of us here will be missing him, his lectures and interactions. India has lost a very important personality who inculcated interests among the scholars and gave birth to strategic studies in India. It would be very difficult to fill the void created by this sudden demise. Air Commodore Jasjit Singh will live on in our memories forever. Sitakanta Mishra : It has been for the last eight years I am associated with Air Cmde. Jasjit Singh and CAPS. During all these years I have learnt a lot, professional as well as social skills, through his personal guidance. His blessings has shaped my life in many ways. Though his mortal being is no more, he will remain close my heart for ever. May your soul rest in peace in Heaven and guide us to carry forward your vision.