REMEMBERING AIR CMDE JASJIT SINGH AVSM, VrC, VM (Retd) 1934-2013
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.
1st AIR COMMODORE JASJIT SINGH MEMORIAL LECTURE
VENUE: Gulmohar Hall, India Habitat Centre.
Date: July 18, 2014.
Lecture Delivered by: Shri N.N.Vohra, Governor J&K.
Air Commodore Jasjit Singh’ Memorial Lecture
Venue: India Habitat Centre, New Delhi
Date: 18 July 2018
Air Commodore Jasjit Singh Memorial Lecture
Venue: Gulmohar Hall, India Habitat Centre, New Delhi
Date: 17 July 2019
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!
Prof. Y S Rajan, Hon. Distinguished Professor, Indian Space Research Organisation
Bijil Baby : I was shocked when i read the news of Air Commodore Jasjit Singh passing away. He was my one of the person who gave me the spirit of Nation’s Defence. I am deeply committed to the security of our Country’s air space. Basically my area of interest is aircrafts, air defence & studding strategic air defense areas. Air Commodore Jasjit Singh had influenced me a much lot in these particular areas. May God give peace to his Soul.
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”.
Air Chief Marshal Sir Glenn Torpy, BAE Systems Plc, United Kingdom
Department of East Asian Studies, Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Delhi:
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.
Gp Capt Bhushan Mahajan : It is a big loss to CAPS and bigger loss to nation. May his soul rest in peace.
Baidya Bikash Basu : A Great Nationalist, a Great Guru and a Wonderful Individual. His absence will be felt more in the coming days.
Avina S. Malhotra, Westend Travel Services : Air Commodore Jasjit Singh was a thorough gentleman & a wonderful human being. Heartfelt condolences to his family. May his soul Rest in Peace.
Dr Shekhar Adhikari, HoD, Dept of Defence and Strategic Studies , University of Allahabad : Sad to hear about the demise of Air Cmde Jasjit Singh, an erudite national security analyst and an ace strategic thinker. May his soul rest in peace.
Letters from Dr Shekhar Adhikari
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 continue its onward journey ……
Ashwin Chandrasekhar : I was an intern at Centre for Air Power Studies not so long ago and had a riveting discussion on Security related education and the effectiveness of think tanks in India on my first day with Air Commodore Jasjit Singh. I was especially pleased when he said that I shouldn’t restrict my research work to ‘Air Power’ but work towards anything that helped the nation. One hopes that his vision for security studies is actualised through greater civil-military relationship and dialogue.
Lt Col Mohinder Pal Singh : The demise of Air Commodore Jasjit Singh is loss of an erudite scholar to the community of strategic studies. His mesmerizing persona will be missed at all seminars/ discussions in all circles of strategic studies and national security issues. May his soul rest in peace.
Basudeb Chaudhri : Very sad to read today that Commodore Jasjit Singh has passed away. Please convey my deepest condolences to his family and entourage at CAPS.
Ivo Slaus : My condolences. We will all miss Jasjit – a very dear friend, an outstanding fellow of WAAS and a man who made so much for peace. We are all enriched by knowing him, learning from him and being his friends, Cordially ivo
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.
Dr. V. Siddhartha : Jasjit knew me from when he was Director of IDSA. YET he invited me to join CAPS as a Distinguished Fellow. Even paid me a monthly I could hardly complain about. Allowed me to tell him he was flat wrong — until a few days after when I would go back and say: “You know what? I now think …”. Only to be told: “I thought about it too; Needs a re-jig.. I’ll do that in my hide-away in the hills”. Terrific sense of whole-body shaking humour. Great loss. Greater man.
Raghu Nair : I met Air Cmde Jasjit for the first time in 1991 when he visited his son Sqn Ldr Ajay Singh at the air force academy. Sqn Ldr Ajay singh was my instructor. It was a pleasure listening to Air Cmde Jasjit’s lectures on air power. Goa,the seat of Naval Aviation saw him share his pearls of wisdom with the fly boys who dominated the seas.He always had a clear vision of joint operations wherein the Army , Navy and Air Force would jointly dominate the theatre of operations. As director general CAPS he ensured participation of the Naval and Army Aviation Officers in all discussions at CAPS. Research scholars from the Naval Maritime Foundation, CLAWS and CAPS met at CAPS, Subroto Park regularly to discuss matters aviation. Each one of them brought in their rich experience and today we can see the spurt in research scholars from the armed forces. A true visionary , he would be fondly remembered by all of us; he touched our hearts and minds and made us think big and ahead of our times.
Ravinder S Chhatwal : The passing away of our most respected DG Air Cmde Jasjit Singh (Retd), Padma Bhushan AVSM, VrC, VM, was very shocking. Being in CAPS we were of course very fortunate to meet him frequently but one never thought that he would leave for the blue yonder so suddenly. Sir, you were an inspiration for all of us. We had so much to learn from you, your commitment to national security issues, your deep knowledge on strategic affairs, your prolific writing skills and so many other sterling qualities were amazing. I used to many times wonder at your sharp intellect and many capabilities. Every time I went to discuss some matters with you it used to be an education. I used to always feel that I wish could spend some more time to be with you and to learn and learn more under your tutelage. I remember when you spoke to us on National Security on your birthday just two weeks ago. It was a more than one hour lecture but it was so spell binding that one never knew that more than an hour had elapsed. May your soul rest in peace. You did your duty. We have to do ours for which you will always be our guiding light.
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.
Tamara : The unbelievable news of Jasjit’s demise was a great shock to me and all of us who knew him for many years! Despite his age, he was so full of life, energy, new projects and new ideas. Please, convey my personal condolences to Madam, whom I was honored to meet a couple of times at their home and other places in Dehli many years ago. Owing to Jasjit, it was good to meet and work with you, and I hope to see you and your family again in Dehli, or Moscow, or elsewhere.
Mikhail L. Titarenko, Academician, Institute of Far Eastern Studies, Russian Academy of Science, Moscow, Russia : It was with great sorrow that we heard the sad news on demise of Air Commodore Jasjit Singh. We knew him for over 30 years and we always admired his love for India, his energy, his insightful knowledge and analysis of many complex political and security problems, as well as his cheerful attitude to life and his generous hospitality extended to his guests. During the past 30 years we held several joint conferences with Jasjit – first, at the Institute of Defense Studies and Analysis, and later, in the last couple of years, at the Center for Air Power Studies. The last two meetings held with CAPS in Delhi and Moscow were made possible owing to Jasjit’s enthusiasm, his earnest desire to reactivate India-Russia relations in many spheres and his wise understanding of the fact that the stronger relations between Russia and India would contribute to the strength of both countries. We shall always remember Air Commodore Singh as a good fighter, who never stopped his knightly and noble battle for his country, for Indian people, for international friendship and understanding. His demise is a great loss for India, for international studies, for his family, and for all those who were lucky to be his friends. We shall also remember him as a remarkable person, a brilliant gentleman and an excellent friend. He lived a glorious life, and let his other life be even more glorious and enjoyable.
Letters from Mikhail L. Titarenko
Robert Swartz : Please pass on my condolences at the recent loss of Air Commodore Singh, a global figure in strategic affairs. I can remember our conversation virtually word for word. Jasjit was a huge figure in the development of Indian and indeed global strategic thought and his contributions will be long remembered.
Air Cmde Goley : It is sad day for all Air Warriors and well wishers of Air Power community. Please convey my condolences to the berieved family and the CAPS team.
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 privelege 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.
Wg Cdr MK Sharma : As I walked across the corridor of CAPS, I saw young IAF officers of ‘Squadron Officers Security Capsule’ assembled in the conference hall, and for a moment, I almost saw the glass door of the Director General’s office opening and Air Commodore Jasjit Singh with his iconic red turban coming out to address the officers! ……… My most respected sir, it is hard to come to terms with the reality that the Soul of the CAPS has left leaving the body behind, with little apparent changes. I would miss your magnanimous hand on my shoulders. The discussions in your office always left me inspired to gauge the future of India with a different yardstick. It is a great personal and professional loss to me as it would be to thousands of Aerospace strategy lovers across globe. I was privileged to work with the luminary strategist during yr 2008 – 2010 and his inspirational mentoring gravitated me back to CAPS on present assignment. I am sure he would keep guiding us from the above. May God grant peace to the accomplished soul and strength to his family members, CAPS family, followers and fans to stand this irreparable loss.
C.R. Gharekhan : I am greatly saddened by the demise of Air Commodore Jasjit Singh. I am now in New York and could not attend the funeral and cremation. I held the Air Commodore in genuinely high respect. He was a person of the highest intellectual integrity, expressed his views without hesitation and without worrying about what others would react to his views. This is a rare quality among our intellectuals. He was of course extremely knowledgeable and a great expert on the national security issues facing our country, his departure is a genuine loss. Pl do convey my message to Air Marshall Kapil Kak.
Sarcone, David : Dear Dhanasree, Our meeting with the Air Commodore was one of my most memorable experiences while in India. His energy, commitment and passion for India was inspiring. His voice on critical policy issues will surely be missed. Our thoughts are with you.
Vishal Nigam : It is such a huge loss and I am going to miss you every single day. You would recall that I had mentioned many a times the impact you have had on my life and your decision to suddenly leave me at a time when I needed you the most has left such a huge void. I feel skeptical visiting CAPS for I will not see the grey and elegant Honda Civic parked in the portico, cease to feel the vibrations and will not be able to discuss my writings in the future. However I know that you will always stay close in my heart and keep guiding me forever. May God bestow all the strength to your family and followers.
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.
I S Sharma : Great Loss to India & Strategic Community.
Abhay Bisht : Words cannot describe the loss. Sir you will be missed 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.