Air Chief Marshal Arjan Singh retired in 1969 at the age of 50 from IAF. The last aircraft that he flew in Air Force was a MiG 21. He spent a year or so at 21, Safdarjang Road, Delhi, where he kept busy with family and social engagements. He was appointed Ambassador to Switzerland in 1971, where he felt at home, having first visited the country in 1938. He loved Switzerland and he used to go skiing there quite often from England. The Indian embassy in Berne had a small staff, less than a dozen.
During Singh's diplomatic tenure in Switzerland, the 1971 war with Pakistan, which resulted in the creation of Bangladesh, took place. He explained India's position to the Swiss and also managed to earn various kinds of loans and weapons from them. He particularly recalled the Swiss, for the fact that they would stick by their word, no matter what.
Arjan Singh also concurrently served as the Ambassador to the court of Pope Paul VI at the Vatican. Pope Paul VI had visited India in 1964 and knew a lot about the country. Singh's career as a diplomat in Indian missions was further taken a step ahead when, after a three-year stint in Switzerland, Arjan Singh was appointed High Commissioner to Kenya in 1974. This was a time of flux in Africa, since neighbouring Ugandan President Idi Amin had thrown all Asians out of his country, as a result of which the vast Indian diaspora in Africa was feeling fairly apprehensive, with many migrating to the West.
Ambassador Arjan Singh was quite friendly with President Arap Moi, who succeeded Jomo Kenyatta after his death in 1978. In fact, Singh used to visit Moi's farm in Nakuru, 130 miles from the capital Nairobi. His primary emphasis was to get to know the local people. Regrettably, Singh's experience was rather towards the sardonic side. He had sensed that various Ambassadors actually got to know each other better-having parties at each other's places, compared to the much-needed local people. According to Arjan Singh, the high-classed diplomats mostly met among themselves, though they were sent to make contact with the local people and know their issues, problems, etc. While in Kenya, Singh had also served as the High Commissioner to Seychelles, where the Indian community numbered a thousand or so in a population of approximately 75,000. This was an additional boosting to expand working relationships for Singh, on his tenure in Indian diplomatic missions. Arjan Singh partly attributes his success in Kenya to his golf, which he used to play with three or four ministers, as well as several top bankers and industrialists.
At the end of his term as Ambassador to Kenya, Singh together with his family returned to New Delhi and lived a "retired" life, keeping in touch with their friends and family, and taking care of the children, who had grown up. They moved to their house in Delhi's diplomatic enclave, Chanakyapuri, thus embarking upon a "holding pattern", when Arjan Singh's day consisted of playing golf and meeting people.
However the kind of experience and ability that he possessed as a diplomat was needed time and again by the government. Thus arrived Arjan Singh's time to move into a further diplomatic mission as Member of the Minorities Commission (1978-1981). His job was to look after the problems of the minorities in India. Singh spoke about his tenure in India in the Commission that there existed not too many problems of the Sikhs, since by nature they were problem-solvers themselves. However, Singh significantly pointed out that the Muslim community did have umpteen problems of marginalisation. He had also remained the Chairman of the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Delhi, from 1980-1983, where he guided one of the premier technical education institutes of the country.
When asked about his position as a Director of Grindlays Bank for six years, Arjan Singh chuckled and spoke thus that it was principally because he has had an account with the bank since 1935 when he first banked with them in Lahore. Actually, it was more a tribute to his multifaceted achievements and the larger-than-life presence that he lent to the boardrooms.
When the anti-Sikh riots took place, he along with other prominent Punjabis like journalist-diplomat Kuldeep Nayar and writer Patwant Singh, formed a joint forum and went to the then President Giani Zail Singh on November 1, 1984, to ask him to call out the Army without delay. To add to the much acclaimed experiences in his diplomatic missions, both in India and abroad, Marshal Arjan Singh was actively involved with the relief measures in the Sikh disturbances, including disbursement of money to needy persons.
Arjan Singh's posting as Delhi's Lieutenant-Governor by the V. P. Singh government near the closing of 1989 was the first civil post that Arjan Singh held. He owned a competent .
During that time there existed no elected government and thus the Lieutenant-Governor had a lot to do. Arjan Singh as that diplomatic missionary was able to help people during his tenure, though he had actually held the post only for a year. It was during this period that the road signs also came up in Punjabi, as Punjabis constituted more than 14 per cent of the population of Delhi.
As a conclusive eulogy in honour of Arjan Singh while in his diplomatic missions, in which, he had triumphantly wrapped up each work, he did not fail to leave a last milestone of feat. Ever a farmer at heart, Singh ensured that a fixed minimum rate of compensation be declared for the farmers whose land was bought by colonisers or the Delhi Development Authority. The tenure was a short one and Arjan Singh resigned in December 1990.
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