Former Indian Air Force helicopter pilot, Air Vice Marshall Chandan Singh Rathore, on Sunday, passed away at his home in Jodhpur at the age of 95. Prime Minister Narendra Modi took to Twitter to share his condolences on the passing of Rathore branding him a 'valourous air warrior who contributed towards a stronger and safer India.' Defence Minister Rajnath Singh soon followed suit, citing Rathore's invaluable efforts in the Sino-Indian war of 1962 and the Indo-Pakistan war of 1971.
Rathore's operations during the Sino-Indian War
Among the most highly decorated officers in the Indian Air Force, Rathore began his military career in 1941 as a Lieutenant in the famous Jodhpur Lancer division, once commanded by his father Colonel Bahadur Singhji. Following India's independence in 1947, the 'Lancers' were merged with the President's Body Guard and the Indian Army's 61st Cavalry division. It was then that Chandan Singh, who had already risen to the rank of Captain, joined the Indian Air Force.
Regarded as one of the IAF's most talented officers, on 20 October 1962, Squadron Leader Chandan Singh was tasked with a supply drop in the Chip Chap area in Ladakh, during the Sino-Indian war. Having arrived at the drop zone, Singh noticed that the Indian outposts were under heavy fire from Chinese forces. With no regard for his own safety, Singh successfully managed to replenish the vital supplies of the Indian garrison despite his aircraft being struck 19 times by Chinese ground attacks. Singh's bravery earned him the Vir Chakra, but it was not to be the last time the IAF would be witness to it.
Rathore's inspirational leadership during the India-Pakistan War
During the India-Pakistan war of 1971, Group Captain Singh was commanding the Air Force Station in Jorhat. Under the leadership of Lieutenant General Sagat Singh, Chandan Singh successfully planned and executed the airlifting of two Army companies from the Sylhet area. In early December, when India conceived to conquer Dacca (now Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh), Singh oversaw the advancement of approximately 3,000 troops and 40 tons of equipment (including heavy guns) via a strained helicopter arsenal.
The missions Singh undertook required meticulous planning and forethought, and guided by Lieutenant General Sagat Singh, Chandan Singh would personally carry out dangerous reconnaissance that consistently put his life in jeopardy, to identify where he could gain an advantage over the Pakistan forces. On 7 December, Singh conducted eight helicopter airlift operations deep in enemy territory, believed to have been critical to the success of India's campaign. Following the events of 7 December, he went on to undertake an additional 18 missions, each time allowing India's ground forces to advance closer to their objective.
In fact, Lieutenant General Shammi Mehta, as quoted in Air Vice Marshal Arjun Subramaniam's book, India's Wars: A Military History, 1947 – 1971, quite categorically credits the fall of Dacca to the efforts of Lieutenant General Sagat Singh and Air Vice Marshal Chandan Singh when he says, “If there was no Sagat Singh and no Chandan Singh, there would have been no Dacca.”On 26 January, 1972, Chandan Singh Rathore was awarded India's second highest military honour, the Maha Vir Chakra, for his gallantry and leadership.