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Tributes pour in for Indian war hero ahead of state funeral

(FILES) This file photo taken on April 24, 2002 shows Indian Air Chief Marshal Arjan Singh after receiving the Marshal of the Indian Air Force baton during a ceremony in New Delhi. Singh, who was the only officer to have been made marshal of the Indian Air Force, and was a key figure in the 1965 India-Pakistan conflict, has died at age 98. PRAKASH SINGH / AFP

Tributes poured in Sunday for late Indian war hero Marshal Arjan Singh, who rose to prominence during World War II and for his leadership in the country’s 1965 war against Pakistan.

Singh, the only officer ever to be named Marshal of the Indian Air Force owing to his achievements, died after suffering a cardiac arrest at the age of 98 at an army hospital in Delhi on Saturday.

The Indian government announced that a state funeral would be held for Singh on Monday.

“Marshal of the Indian Air Force (IAF) was a hero of World War II and won our nation’s gratitude for his military leadership in the War of 1965,” Indian President Ram Nath Kovind said in a statement.

“He served the nation with distinction and was the first and only officer of the IAF who was honoured with the five-star rank as Marshal of the Air Force,” he added.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi also mourned Singh on Twitter.

“India will never forget excellent leadership of Marshal of the IAF Arjan Singh in 1965, when the IAF saw substantial action,” he said.

Singh first rose to prominence after he received a distinguished flying cross for his contributions during the Second World War from the last Viceroy of pre-Independence India, Lord Louis Mountbatten.

“During the Second World War, Arjan Singh flew close support missions during the Imphal campaign and also was part of the team that assisted the advance of allied forces to Rangoon in today’s Myanmar,” a report in The Hindu newspaper said.

“For his rile in successfully leading the squadron during combat, Singh received the distinguished flying cross in 1944,” it added.

After retiring from the IAF, Singh served as the Indian ambassador to Switzerland and the Vatican.

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