India Honours Top Civilian Award To Pakistan-Origin Singer; Opposition Slams Modi-Government

Indian government’s decision to grant Pakistani-origin singer Adnan Sami with one of India’s highest civilian award – Padma Shri has triggered a massive controversy in the country. EurAsian Times gets you a report from The Week.

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According to reports, the controversy has more to do with the actions of Arshad Sami Khan, Adnan Sami’s father, who was a pilot in the Pakistan Air Force, in the 1965 war, six years before Adnan was born.

Several critics of the Modi government’s decision pointed out that a son of a Pakistan Air Force pilot who battled against India had been given such a prestigious award. Congress spokesperson Jaiveer Shergill attacked the Modi government and asked, “Why Indian Soldier like Mohd Sannaullah is declared foreigner via NRC & Son of Pakistan Air Force Pilot is given Padma Shri”. Shergill also asked whether praising the government was a criterion to win an award, referring to Adnan Sami’s support for various government policies.

The attack by the opposition party has raised curiosity on the role of Arshad Sami Khan did during the 1965 India-Pakistan war. Some on Twitter claimed Arshad Sami Khan had shot down many Indian Air Force aircraft in 1965.

The official entry on the Pakistan Air Force Museum website on Arshad Sami Khan notes, “he flew the maximum combat missions during the war with India”. And finally, the entry describes Arshad Sami Khan’s purported achievements in the 1965 War. “He has been credited with one aircraft,15 tanks, and 22 vehicles destroyed and 8 tanks and 19 vehicles damaged and 2 heavy guns destroyed,” the entry notes. Arshad Sami Khan was awarded the Sitara-i-Juraat, Pakistan’s third-highest gallantry award, by Field Marshal Ayub Khan for his role in the 1965 war.

According to The Week quoting an article in 2000 in Defence Journal, Arshad Sami Khan was part of a Pakistan Air Force strike formation that attacked the Indian Air Force base at Pathankot on September 6, 1965. The Pakistan Air Force formation was flying F-86 Sabre fighters, supplied by the US.

The Pakistan Air Force claimed its F-86 fighters, armed with rockets and bombs, destroyed “seven MiG-21s, five Mysteres and one Fairchild C-119 (a transport aircraft)” on the ground. The Indian Air Force, however, claims only two MiG-21s were destroyed in the raid on Pathankot.

Arshad Sami Khan later served as an aide to three Pakistani presidents and even became a diplomat. In 2008, he released a book, Three Presidents and an Aide: Life, Power, and Politics, on his experience in the Pakistan Air Force and time as a presidential aide.

In the book, Arshad Sami Khan talks of his views on the conduct of the Pakistan Air Force. In the book, Arshad Sami Khan claims he had flown the most number of combat hours in the entire Pakistan Air Force, “61 hours and 15 minutes”, in the 1965 war. He faulted the Pakistan Air Force for using the F-86 fighters again in the 1971 war to attack Indian Air Force bases, noting that they had poor bomb load.

In the book, Arshad Sami Khan notes “Since the 1965 war, India had equipped its armed forces with more modern weaponry than Pakistan had” and while the Pakistan military did very well on the western front in the 1971 war, on the eastern front, the Indian Air Force and Army “kept wrecking havoc”.

Adnam Sami responded to Indian TV Channel Republic TV and stated that his father had made individual and personal choices in life which are different from the ones he has made for himself. He also revealed that his father was out of the service before his birth and that he had never seen him in a uniform, let alone known anything about his life in the Air Force.

Sami told Republic TY – His father had been an honorable man for his services towards his country and had been completely on board with the singer’s decision to become an Indian. He recalled the instance when he confronted his father about his decision and revealed that his father gave his blessings to give back the love and respect that was bestowed on him as a popular artist in India.

 Originally Published By The Week. With addition from the RepublicTV