‘Protocol should have been forgone for Manekshaw’s funeral’

September 8th, 2008 - 12:10 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Sep 8 (IANS) Marshal of Air Force Arjan Singh has said the government should have forgotten protocol to attend Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw’s funeral, an event that saw very low-key official representation.”The whole country should have forgotten the protocol issue and attended Manekshaw’s funeral,” Singh, 91, told IANS here.

Manekshaw, the legendary army chief who scripted India’s decisive victory against Pakistan in 1971 resulting in the creation of Bangladesh, died at the Military Hospital in Wellington in Tamil Nadu June 27 after developing acute bronchopneumonia.

No senior minister, including the defence minister, or the armed forces chiefs turned up at the state funeral accorded to Manekshaw, sparking a controversy.

Later it was revealed that the rank of ‘Field Marshal’, which is equivalent to the rank of the ‘Marshal of the Air Force’, did not figure in the country’s protocol list, resulting in the fiasco.

“It was a surprise for me (senior ministers not attending the funeral). You do not need a rank to be in the protocol list to attend his (Manekshaw’s) funeral. He had served the country very well. They should have gone,” said Singh.

Singh also tried to bring home the point by citing the precedent of former Indian Army chief and Field Marshal K.M. Kariappa’s funeral, which was attended by the defence minister and the three armed forces chiefs.

“There was a precedent with the defence minister and three service chiefs attending Field Marshal Kariappa’s funeral and people should have followed that,” Singh added.

Singh, the first Indian Air Force chief to don the tapes of Marshal of the Air Force in 2002, is now the only surviving five-star general in the country.

The defence ministry still remains non-committal of including the rank Field Marshal and its equivalent Marshal of the Air Force and Admiral of the Fleet in the protocol list.

“I am not going to ask for anything (inclusion of the rank). It is up to the government. Till date I have not sought anything,” said Singh with the same nonchalance that he exhibited when the then defence minister sought the support of the IAF in the 1965 war with Pakistan and he replied “…in an hour”.

Singh, who has received Distinguished Flying Cross, was still in college in 1938 when he was selected for the Empire Pilot training course at RAF Cranwell at 19 years of age.

He got the reins of the IAF on Aug 1, 1964, and retired in 1969.

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