Centre for Air Power Studies (CAPS)

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On 04 August, 2013, the Centre for Air Power Studies lost its founder Director General.  But the loss reverberated across the strategic community since Air Cmde Jasjit Singh AVSM, VrC, VM (retd) had for over three decades been such a strong presence in every forum and platform discussing matters of national security.

Just about two weeks before he passed away, Jasjit Singh had entered his 80th year. We celebrated it at the Centre in the manner that he considered a true celebration – with him delivering a lecture on India’s National Security. Indeed, national interest was the only compass that guided all his thoughts and action.

Out of the 8 full decades that he spent on this Earth, Jasjit Singh spent nearly five of them in active service to the nation – in one capacity or another – earlier as a fighter pilot in the Indian Air Force and later as a security analyst. Nearly everyone in India or abroad with any interest in strategic issues and national security was familiar with his outstanding service to the nation in the field of defense and strategic affairs. Befittingly, he was awarded the Padma Bhushan by the President of India in 2006 for this. However, few know that before being deputed to the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA) in the mid-1980s, he had already been decorated thrice while in Indian Air Force for distinguished service of an exceptional order and gallantry in the face of enemy.

As Director, IDSA from 1987 to 2001, it fell upon Jasjit Singh to steer informed opinion making on India’s security and foreign policy during the turbulent period of the end of the Cold War when both the world and India underwent seminal transformations. When India conducted the nuclear tests in 1998, he travelled across the length and breadth of the world to explain the Indian threat perceptions and the rationale for the acquisition of nuclear weapons. It would not be out of line to state that the new found acceptance for India and its accommodation in the non-proliferation regime is a result of the many interactions that he had with opinion shapers and makers around the world in which he subtly influenced national policies towards India.

On retiring from IDSA he established the Centre for Air Power Studies (CAPS), an idea that had taken root in his mind during his tenure at IDSA. He was keen to build scholar warriors by encouraging them to undertake studies on national security, and specifically on air power. The Air Power journal, the flagship journal of CAPS, was started with the specific purpose of promoting deep thinking and analyses on related issues. Furthering this process, he initiated various national security capsules, including the well known Nuclear Strategy Capsule, for officers at various levels.

Jasjit Singh’s writings spread across a range of issues of strategic importance. He has been author and contributing editor of scores of books including such pioneer works as Air Power in Modern Warfare (1985), Non-provocative Defence (1989), Nuclear India (1998), India’s Defence Spending (2000), Air Power and Joint Operations (2003), Iraq War (2004), Defence from the Skies: Indian Air Force through 75 years (2007) and the Icon (2009). Under his stewardship, CAPS published a record number of 21 books and 6 Delhi Papers in 2012 alone.
Amongst his many affiliations, some of the major roles in which he has rendered service to the nation are as :

  • Convener of the Task Force to set up the National Security Council, 1998.
  • Member of the National Security Advisory Board, 1990-91 and 1998-2001. During the latter tenure, he was responsible for the preparation of the Draft Nuclear Doctrine of the country.
  • Member of the International Commission for a New Asia.
  • Member of the International Commission for Peace and Food.
  • Consultant to the Standing Committee on Defence of the Indian Parliament.
  • Advisor to the 11th Finance Commission of India.
  • Fellow of the World Academy of Art and Science

Besides his myriad writings on all aspects of strategic and security issues in academic journals and newspapers, Jasjit Singh’s most noteworthy contribution has been in the form of his constant willingness to engage in discussions with all sections of society – the uniformed, academic, young students, as well as the government. In the process he has succeeded in nurturing a rich gene pool of Indian strategic analysts.

The man with the sprightly step, bubbling with new ideas, and never showing any signs of fatigue even at 79, Jasjit Singh may no longer be with us in body. But his spirit lives on and he will remain a worthy role model for a long time to come.
The Centre for Air Power Studies will always endeavour to bring his many dreams to life walking in the direction that he showed us and the path that he set us on.