Normalcy returning to Kashmir, northeast: Gen Singh


New Delhi: Normalcy is fast returning to Jammu and Kashmir and the northeast with a perceptible decline in violence levels, the outgoing Indian Army chief, Gen. J.J. Singh, said Sunday.

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“In Kashmir, the people have not identified with the militants and look forward to peace. In Assam too, the people have not identified with ULFA (United Liberation Front of Asom), whose cadres are on the run,” Singh told reporters after inspecting a guard of honour on his last day in office after a career spanning 43 years.

Gen. Deepak Kapoor will take over Monday as the 23rd chief of the Indian Army.

Noting that the borders in Kashmir “are much more secure” today, Singh attributed this to the army’s “iron fist and velvet glove” policy.

Casualty rates were also down to one-third of those three to four years ago, Singh said.

He also discounted reports that a majority of the 1.2 million-strong Indian Army was bogged down in tackling insurgency in Kashmir and the northeast.

“Only 25 percent of the army is engaged in counter-terrorism operations and on border deployment,” Singh contended.

“The bulk of our forces are, by rotation, training on advanced weapon systems being acquired and to fight battles in a nuclear and chemical warfare environment,” he added.

According to Singh, the Indian Army had acquired and assimilated night fighting technology, as also futuristic weapons systems like network-centric radars, unmanned aerial vehicles and other such force multipliers.

To a query on the creation of the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) as a single point of reference to the defence minister, Singh, who served for a year as chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee (CSC), said this would happen “when the time is right”.

“The government would take a decision on the CDS in due course. The present system is working well,” he maintained.

Asked what he would miss the most on retirement, Singh replied: “My uniform.”

Widely considered to be a thinking soldier and a thorough professional, Singh assumed command as army chief on Jan 31, 2005. He was born on Sep 17, 1945, in Bahawalpur, now in Pakistan. His family migrated to Patiala in Punjab after the subcontinent’s partition in 1947.

An alumnus of the National Defence Academy (NDA), Singh was commissioned into the 9th battalion of the Maratha Light Infantry on Aug 2, 1964.

Singh is a third generation soldier. His grandfather served in the 1/67 Punjab Regiment during World War I in Mesopotamia and Kut-al-Amara – both in present day Iraq – along with the 103rd, 105th, 110th, 114th and 117th Marathas. These five battalions subsequently amalgamated into the Maratha Light Infantry.

His father, Col. (retd) Jaswant Singh Marwah, is a World War II veteran and served in the Corps of Electrical & Mechanical Engineers from 1943 to 1973. Singh’s son, however, will not continue the tradition, having chosen to craft a different course in the corporate world.

Posted to Algiers as India’s first defence attaché to Algeria (1987-1990), Singh returned to the 79 (Independent) Mountain Brigade in the Baramula sector of Jammu and Kashmir during the peak of insurgency. Gravely wounded in a fierce gunfight with terrorists infiltrating across the Line of Control (LoC), he was awarded Wound Medal and the Chief of Army Staff’s commendation.

He has also been awarded the Ati Vishist Seva Medal (AVSM) and the Param Vishist Seva Medal (PVSM).

Singh has served in a variety of important appointments like Deputy Director General (Operational Logistics) and Additional Director General Military Operations during the 1999 Kargil war with Pakistan, during which time he was the public face of the Indian Army.

He has also headed the elite 1 Corps, one of the army’s three strike corps, the Army Training Command and the prestigious Western Command.