No immediate troop reduction in Kashmir: army chief


New Delhi : India’s new army chief Monday ruled out any troop reduction in Jammu and Kashmir, saying normalcy has not yet returned to the troubled state where insurgency has been festering for almost 20 years.

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“Normalcy has not yet returned. The question of (troop) redeployment will be looked at as and when appropriate,” Gen. Deepak Kapoor, who assumed command as the 23rd army chief Sunday afternoon, told reporters Monday.

“The degree of deployment would be dependent on the ground situation,” he added.

Kapoor was speaking after inspecting a guard of honour accorded to him at South Block on his first full day in office. Earlier, he laid a wreath at the Amar Jawan Jyoti martyrs’ memorial at India Gate.

Kapoor succeeds Gen. J.J. Singh, who retired Sunday after 43 years in service. Kapoor was hitherto the army’s vice chief.

“We have a fine strategy in place to check infiltration (into Kashmir) and to fight the infiltrators who do sneak in. Our aim is to reduce violence (in the state),” said Kapoor, who played a key role in combating militancy when he headed the Indian Army’s Udhampur-based Northern Command.

Responding to a question on whether the political turmoil in neighbouring Myanmar would have an impact on the army’s ongoing operations against rebels in India’s northeast that are operating from its territory, Kapoor said: “The (Myanmar) government will have to deal with that.”

“It is important that we maintain good relations with them,” he added.

Asked to list his priorities, Kapoor said the modernisation of the Indian Army would top his agenda.

“Modernisation is my first priority. We need to do this in the quickest possible time. I will also attempt to improve the culture and ethos of the Indian Army,” he said.

“We will also make attempts to improve our working (relations) with the navy and the air force,” Kapoor added.

Asked in this context about his views on the creation of a chief of defence staff (CDS) as a single point of reference for the defence minister, he said: “It will come into place by and by. It will take time as the other systems are first put into place. Once the government thinks it fit, it will come in place.”

Questioned on the slew of corruption cases that have hit the army in the past few months, he replied: “We will deal with this in the appropriate manner.”

An alumnus of the Sainik School, the Defence Services Staff College, the Army War College and the National Defence College, Kapoor’s rise through the army’s steep pyramidal hierarchy to its very apex “has been a journey that saw him performing extraordinarily well in a large number of key and prestigious appointments”, a defence ministry release added.

Commissioned in the Regiment of Artillery in June 1967, Kapoor participated in the war for liberation of Bangladesh in 1971. From 1994 to 1995, he represented India as the chief operations officer for all UN peacekeeping forces deployed in Somalia, for which he was awarded the Vishisht Seva Medal (VSM) in 1996.

During his tenure as a brigade commander deployed on the Line of Control in Jammu and Kashmir, he was awarded the Sena Medal (devotion to duty) in 1998.

Kapoor commanded one of the most prestigious divisions of a strike corps during Operation Parakram, the army’s mobilisation along the Kashmir frontier that followed the terror strike against the Indian parliament in December 2001.

He went on to command a corps in the northeast deployed along the Sino-Indian frontier. For his excellent command of the corps, Kapoor was awarded Ati Vishisht Seva Medal (AVSM) in 2006.

On promotion as army commander, he headed the Army Training Command at Shimla and thereafter the Northern Command — the largest and most sensitive command of the Indian Army — from September 2005 to December 2006.

Kapoor is married to Kirti, daughter of army veteran Brig. K.P. Pande, who is a recipient of the Maha Vir Chakra (MVC). The Kapoors have two children — a daughter and a son, both married.