Thursday, May 31, 2012

General Bikram Singh Takes Over As India's New Army Chief Today

By Group Captain Tarun Kumar Singha VSM

General Bikram Singh PVSM UYSM AVSM SM VSM ADC assumes charge as the Chief of Army Staff today. It is no coincidence that the 25th Indian General to lead the world's second largest army is indeed one of the most decorated serving soldiers today. Commissioned on March 31, 1972, into the Sikh Light Infantry (SIKHLI) Regiment, his four-decades career in the uniform so far has been a continuing saga of 'aspiring for excellence'. His colleagues remember him as one of the bright cadets at the Indian Military Academy (IMA), where he held the appointment of Battalion Cadet Adjutant (BCA).

An astute military tactician and an ardent student of military strategy and operational art till date, he was awarded the J&K Rifles Gold Medal for 'Tactics and Leadership' and the 'Shriganesh Trophy' at IMA. The affable General Bikram - better known as 'Bikki' to his friends, began displaying his steely resolve and grit very early in his army carer. At the Infantry School during his Young Officer's course, he topped the course and was adjudged the 'Best Young Officer' and also awarded the prestigious 'Commando Dagger' for being the best commando along with 'Best in Tactics' trophy. These awards, remain the most coveted dream of every aspiring young officer.

It was during his tenure as an instructor at the Commando Wing of the Infantry School that Gen Bikram would find his life partner. Then, a young Captain, Bikram saw and briefly met his future wife-to-be, Surjeet Kaur - popularly known as 'Bubbles' in army circles, at a family wedding. He saw her, liked her and proposed to her. "It indeed was love at first sight," reminisces Gen Bikram. Respecting the custom and traditions, he sought the assistance of his sister and other family members who set up the match before his return to the Commando School after his leave. "Within a week, things were arranged and we got engaged. However, I was not happy with the marriage being fixed after six months. So, I called her up from Belgaum and told her to be prepared for marriage within a month. Of course, this required convincing parents and family members on both sides." True to his words, marriage done, Mrs Bubbles joined him at the Commando Wing of the Infantry School within the stated time-frame.

For the newly-wedded lady, it was an altogether new experience to be in a way of life that she had no prior association with. "During various demonstrations that used to be organised for the public, I ensured that Bubbles was present to see and appreciate our commando skills and techniques". He needn't have done any more, for Mrs Bubbles was more than just smitten by this young, handsome officer and his honest display of affection, albeit only commando-like.

"Bikki's friends ensured that for nearly a month-and-half I didn't have to cook any meal after I joined him. Either we were invited to a friend's house or they would send us meals at home," says Mrs Bubbles. Her tryst with the  army life began on a note of bonhomie and she has stood steadfast to the core values of the camaraderie that is the mainstay of life in the armed forces, army in particular. Today, Mrs Bubbles has an equally important role to play alongside Gen Bikram Singh, as President AWWA (Army Wives Welfare Association), in the days and years ahead.

The environs of South Block beckoned Gen Bikram on several occasions. After the 'Higher Command Course', he served his first tenure in the Military Operations (MO) Directorate. The tenure, as a Director, coincided with the Kargil war and the bright officer was singled out to brief the media on the daily progress of the conflict. Later, he was also made responsible for writing the official version of the war history. These were major responsibilities, which he fulfilled commendably.

He went on to serve four more important tenures at Army HQ which included one additional tenure in the MO Directorate as the Deputy Director General, thereafter, two tenures in the Perspective Planning Directorate, initially as the Deputy Director General of Perspective Planning (Strategy) and later, as the head of the Army's 'Think Tank' as the Additional Director General (the appointment now has since been upgraded to the post of Director General). He would later return to Army HQ as a Lieutenant General to serve as the Director General Staff Duties (DGSD) that facilitates the overall functioning of various branches of Army HQ, and serves as an interface with other government agencies besides looking at the Indian Army's training teams abroad and UN peacekeeping operations.

In between the 'Staff' roles, Gen Bikram Singh went on to command several other operational field formations. These include command of a Rashtriya Rifles Sector in South Kashmir, an Infantry Division in J&K and the prestigious 15 Corps at Srinagar. His tenure later as the Army Commander of Eastern Command was also marked by significant improvements in both the conventional and sub-conventional war-fighting arenas. In addition to the timely raisings of various field formations and infrastructure development, the internal security canvas in all the militancy inflicted states has shown a marked improvement. The General ensured that all counter-terrorism operations were synergised, people friendly, and launched on hard intelligence to obviate inconvenience to the locals. All actions of his troops, he demanded, must contribute to the groundswell for peace.

As a Brigadier, he was selected to attend the US Army War College, Pennsylvania, where besides excelling in academics he also won the International Toastmaster's award in public speaking.

His international forays with peace-keeping missions include two assignments with the United Nations in Central America (ONUCA and ONUSAL) and as the Deputy Force Commander and GOC of Eastern Division in the Democratic Republic of Congo. His division comprised contingents from 18 different countries including a brigade each from India and Pakistan, and battalions and companies from China, Bangladesh, Nepal, Uruguay, South Africa, Morocco, Senegal, Benin, and Tunisia amongst other countries. During his tenure in Congo, his division was instrumental in bring peace to the strife-torn eastern region and creating conditions for the consolidation of peace process.

Colleagues also remember him for being a 'soldier's soldier' for spending time and sweat with his troops on the ground. A shade of this was visible during the September 2011 earthquake in Sikkim when he visited all affected forward posts and even awarded commendation medals to soldiers and officers for exceptional service on the spot. Gifted with a razor-sharp memory for details, Gen Bikram is known to often surprise old friends - even those he has not met in decades - with references to their family members and memories of time spent together.

Gen Bikram studied at Punjab Public School, Nabha. An avid sportsman, cricket, athletics and hockey were his favourite games in school. Singing and painting were his other talents that also fetched him awards in school. "Classical songs and ghazals are my favourites," he reveals. "Jagjit Singh, Ghulam Ali and Pankaj Udhas are his favourites," adds Mrs Bubbles.

Gen Bikram was nearly destined to be a doctor as most of his teachers believed he would. He was an exceptional student of Zoology and Biology and always scored very high marks in these subjects. But the wars of 1962 and 1965 were to have a profound impact on his young mind to motivate him to join the NDA in 1968.  The medical fraternity's loss has been the Indian Army's gain. When asked whether he ever regrets the choice made, Gen Bikram says, "If I were ever to be born again, I would only join the Indian army" - words that would be echoed by only a highly motivated soldier, and that which would also inspire a generation of youth who aspire to be one like him.

The couple has two sons, Ramandeep and Kanwardeep.

In the last week of May, Gen Bikram Singh, while on a tour to various formations in north-east, shared few of his thoughts with Sainik Samachar (for issue June 1-15, 2012), the fortnightly journal of the armed forces. Some excerpts from what he spoke on various issues:

What are your priorities after taking over as the Army Chief?

My first priority is to ensure the operational readiness of the Army to enable it to fulfil its constitutional obligations and assigned roles effectively. Secondly, address the hollowness and ensure the modernisation process proceeds as per stipulated timelines. Thirdly, strengthen the Army's work culture and the core values, namely, Duty, Honour, Loyalty, Integrity, Respect and Selfless Service. Fourthly, focus on effective human resource management to ensure high standards of motivation and morale amongst all ranks. Fifthly, enhance 'jointness' with other services. Sixthly, ensure welfare of veterans, Veer Naris and widows. It is important that we care for these very valuable members of our fraternity as they constitute the very bedrock of our bigger Army family. All commanders must endeavour to create a climate during their command tenures that hinges on our cherished core values, professional ethos and is conducive for growth and cohesion.  

Your thoughts on issues such as Siachen and AFSPA?

Look, I have had two stints each in the Military Operations and Perspective Planning directorates at the Army Headquarters and as such, I am fully conversant with these issues and the associated sensitivities and nuances. However, at this stage, I would not like to offer any comment on these issues as we (Army HQ) have already forwarded our views to the government and its now for the Govt to decide.      

What are the Army Headquarters' views?

Our views are classified and therefore, I would not like to talk about these.   

On army's role in tackling left-wing activities?

I am of the view that Army should get employed in internal security situations only as an instrument of last resort, consequent to the optimal employment of state police forces and Central Armed Police Forces (CAPF). It needs to be remembered that our prolonged employment in such situations impacts adversely on our conventional war fighting capabilities and therefore, is best avoided. We need to continue with added zeal and commitment the training of state police forces and CAPFs to give them the requisite prowess to effectively deal with the internal security situations.  

What type of training is being imparted?

We are committed towards training and capability development of CAPFs. Till March this year, the Army had trained almost 70,000 CAPF and State Police personnel including 38 CAPF Battalions in counterinsurgency operations. Approximately 2700 personnel have been imparted counter IED training, 140 newly commissioned Assistant Commandants of various CAPFs have undergone six months attachment with Army battalions deployed in counterinsurgency operations in J&K and the North East and, another batch of 120 officers is presently undergoing attachment. Our endeavour is make these junior leaders proficient in effectively handling their sub units in sub conventional war fighting arena.  

On army's war-fighting capabilities?

Our Army remains fully prepared to face and counter any external threat and deal with internal security challenges. Capability enhancement, as we all know is an ongoing process wherein, we have to ensure that initiatives aimed at modernisation, augmentation of combat power, infrastructure development, and joint-ness coupled with honing the individual and collective skills receive the desired attention at all levels. 

What would be your message to your men?

We all belong to the Best Army of the world. To remain there, let us continue to strive for all-round excellence with added zeal and élan. Let us uphold our cherished core values so that we can continue to remain as one of the most potent, responsive, and accountable instruments of national power.

On this day I also wish to pay my sincere homage to all our gallant officers, JCOs and soldiers who have made supreme sacrifice in the line of duty. Jai Hind!


Mr. Ra said...

I have hardly seen that a good orator is also a real good executive. I hope I am wrong this time.

As for as the quantity and qualities of his aspirations are concerned, they may need another 50 years more to get accomplished. Hope he fulfills them within his own tenure.

Wishing him all the best for a chain of successes.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations and May God bless you and India in its endeavors.

Anonymous said...

Blog quality heading south...

vinodh said...

All prayers to give General Bikki the wisdom and courage to protect and save India in the light of the fact we have politicians who will sell us ouy at the first oppurtunity.

Anonymous said...

that asshole was a scum and corrupt , A UN report just came in that that bikram singh was the commander of the Indian troops on the UN mission in Congo , Indian troops sold their arms to rebels for gold and ivory , rebel leader was a frequent visitor to the army base . The UN report also alleges that Indian troops were also involved in thefts .

Anonymous said...

After reading all the angst against Gen Bikram Singh's appointment as the army chief, one gets the feeling that these articles are somewhat anti-sikh.
Surely generals before Gen JJ Singh and now Gen Bikram Singh, have had greater powers that have played a role, while the Sikh officers have suffered.
This anti sikh feeling of the sarkari establishment, specially of the Congress perhaps stemmed from the distrust the sikh princes earned because they sided with the british and tried their best to keep their lands and kingdoms from being assimilated into Sardar Patel's land reforms plan.

Such has been the Congress's distrust of the sikhs that no sikh general could rise to the top post all these years. This inspite of the fact that the sikhs have been the single most valourious section of the Indian Army, winning almost half the PVCs ever awarded.

There have been regional blocs in GOI in the past, which have always influenced top appointments.

MMS is now in power, and only a historical wrong is being corrected.

No offence meant, and Sikhs are as patriotic as any other indian, but there have been political forces which have promoted regionalism in the past, and the sikhs have suffered. What else can one expect from the bloody civilian netas except to regionalize and try and politicize even the armed forces hain ji?

Anonymous said...

Just a PR exercise by the army PRO. Similar to the one when our new VP joined.

Shiv please don't fall prey to such PRO

Anonymous said...

Gen.Bikram Singh in his exclusive interview has said that China is not our enemy rather a competitior. Then the question arises that who is our enemy. Thousand acres of area in ladakh and arunachal are under illegal occupation of China and still they are not our enemy. Then according to him what is the definition of an enemy. If India has no enemy then there is no need to maintain a standing army.

jaguar tiger said...

This is is in reply for that coward anonymous person who wants to take side of BIKRAM SINGH but afraid to reveal his identity,by raising "SIKH COMMUNITY" card you have shown what low level person you are, we do not respect sikh or any other religion, we respect the person, his thoughts, his karmas, and as far as i remember i respect BHAGAT SINGH. This general and X-Gen J. J Singh are a shame for Indian Army . They both have played a dirty game of communal-ism and religion politics. I am ashamed that people like Bikram Singh, J J Singh and people like you live in this country, you have just ruined the martyr of the Sikhs who gave away there lives for this mother land. AND ITS GOOD YOU PUT THAT SHAME FULL COMMENT BEING ANONYMOUS(National shame) how can Mr. SHIV allowed this comment. Mr. Shiv you are equally responsible for this.

the terminator said...

Let us not bring in ethnicity, race, regionalism into the Armed Forces. Members of the Armed Forces do no see their colour or creed in the midst of firefight. An Indian serving the country does not see himself as representing the rajputs, jats, sikhs or any other subgroups in India. First and foremost he is an Indian and let us leave it that way.

Only when it comes to promotions all these ramifications come to the fore and it is brought up by vested interests in the Armed Forces and the corrupted politicians who have nothing better to do.

Tarik said...

Historical wrong being cleared up? Are you kidding? The sikh punjabi lobby in the Army has existed for ages and has been running things for recent years with MMS, its politicking is overt..VP Malik, NC Vij, JJ Singh, Deepak Kapoor, Bikram Singh, Dalbir Suhag...and of these one was pretty vapid (Malik), Vij was a seat warmer, less said about JJ and Deepak the better...and now, Bikram and Suhag are also embroiled in controversy...the Congo stuff is a huge blot on Bikram Singh.. and Suhag's NE sojourn is reportedly per media pretty dirty.. so the UPA or rather the Congress has finally corrupted the last institution that remained apart, the Army...this is just like 1962 all over again, with the politicians interfering with Army appointments..this is how Nehru foisted Kaul on the Army, and Menon tried to browbeat the Army..and India lost the war..its shameful

Anonymous said...

My greetings to being appointed to the office of the chief of army staff. Now let's get cracking shall we ?
Hope the bar will be set only higher and not lower. Lot's of anticipation and expectations from you sir to perform.

Anonymous said...

@Anon 5.46 PM

Contrary to your claim that Sikhs have been discriminated in the armed forces, actually the armed forces, particularly the Indian Army has been dominated by the Sikhs and other communities that sided with the British till this day. The Indian Army has pretty much retained it's colonial past.

You only have to look at their numbers to know the reality. Prosperity of some states and even a country depends purely on the number of recruits from these places.

It is due to colonial mindset of our Army's top brass that 7 regiments of Nepalese are still continuing to this day whereas Nehru wanted to disband these regiments right after India's independence considering their role in quelling India's independence movement.

As far as Gen Bikram Singh is concerned, I am sure he has risen up purely by his own mettle and not due to blessings of any politician.

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Anonymous said...

The Indian Army is bigger than anyone one person who leads it. Let's keep it at that.

Different perceptions & perspectives apart, the Men in Uniform have a job to do. I wish the Insittution all the very best.

God bless India!

sports funia said...

nice work

Anonymous said...

to all and sundry,

there is no sikh lobby in the army!..the army is purely voluntary...and those who do well do well almost invariably on the basis of their sheet grit and courage etc...

if sikhs have done well it is because they serve voluntarily and show their mettle when they serve..instead of talking of lobby etc..we should respect the fact that sikhs are the 'steel' in the army..and the enemy knows it...

sikh regiments (along with gurkhas, jat and a few others) are the most feared from the enemy's perspective...and there is a reason for that....lest that not be lost upon us...

btw, sikhs serve in many 'mixed' regiments also...many serve without most of us never get to know if they are sikh...their representation and overall % strength in the army is huge given the overall small sikh population in india...lets respect that...they serve so we can sleep in peace...

lets honor and respect all those in the armed forces...and drop this crap about favoritism for he new army chief....there is none...its all merit...

jai hind...


Rahul said...

i wd like to join in the chorus of welcome. General Bikram singh has a formidable track record. This itself is a big boost to the nation's morale. It is heartening that the General has listed effective human resources Mgmt as a priority. Hopefully, he will introduce modern methods of management in the defence organizations. Perhaps he may like to address the issue of remoteness and inaccessibility between men in uniform and the non-military civil society.

Rahul said...

i wd like to join in the chorus of welcome. General Bikram singh has a formidable track record. This itself is a big boost to the nation's morale. It is heartening that the General has listed effective human resources Mgmt as a priority. Hopefully, he will introduce modern methods of management in the defence organizations. Perhaps he may like to address the issue of remoteness and inaccessibility between men in uniform and the non-military civil society.

Anonymous said...

Anon 7.13 PM

Our enemies i.e. Pakistanis and Chinese, are not "afraid" of "Sikhs, Gurkhas, Jats etc." as modern warfare is not won by boots on the ground but by formidable technology.

Our Army was unable to recapture the hills we had lost in the initial phase of the Kargil war. It was the Israeli laser guided bombs which saved our asses.

If you talk about valor, then the Tamils are no less formidable when it comes to military prowess. Just check out what their ragtag militia of kids and women did to our's and SriLanka's Army.

Lobbies are there in almost every institution in South Asia let alone in India. One's caste, community, ethnicity etc. definitely have a bearing on promotions etc. This is the very reason why since independence we have "reservations".

And in a highly corruption plagued govt institution like Indian Army, denying the reality i.e. existence of lobbies based on caste, community etc. is like burying one's head in the sand.

Anonymous said...

anony 9:53pm

don't talk shit. if the tamils are so brave why dont they join the indian army in greater numbers?....what's stopping them?..same for folks from other states.....?.....its an open army..anyone can join....

the LTTE that you referred to is not a good is a militant/insurgent/terrorist orgn...recruits join not coz they are brave..but coz they are indoctrinated into the LTTE creed...u cant compare insurgent groups with a professional army. period.

btw, the laser guided bombs didn't capture the hills in just made it easier for the troops to capture the hills....i personally know folks in the infantry who were there in kargil...on the the end of the day it is the troops on the ground who have to win the war.....u know nothing about war......if u want an example of this just ask the yanks in afghansitan and iraq...their bombs made it easier to initially push back the enemy...but now look at them.....their troops are cowards and hence they cannot win in afghanistan and iraq since the war there is now about folks on the ground.....

so don't write "as modern warfare is not won by boots on the ground but by formidable technology."

it should be "modern warfare is facilitated/assisted by formidable technology...but it is still won by boots on the ground".


Anonymous said...

to 9:53 PM,

Let me add:

Yes, the LTTE massacred the Indian army in operation pawan..but that was because a) the LTTE was not 'ragtag'...they were a formidable insurgent group with better equipment (e.g. AK-47s etc. versus our obsolete SLRs)for close quarter battles - as you encounter in an insurgency type situation, b) they were masters of guerrilla warfare...our army was not really trained for it.....and c) this is most important - our army was fighting with one hand tied behind its back...i.e. we could not use our full military force, could not fire first etc..had very limited and constrained rules of engagement etc.....the same is not true of the yanks in afghanistan or in iraq..the yanks fire javelin anti-tank missiles even at a single insurgent sniper!...but still they cant win there...the same thing happened to the yanks in vietnam....and to the soviets in afghanistan......troops on the ground are required to hold and 'win' the can only help you destroy the enemy..but it cant 'win' the war. period.

also, to cite the LTTE to indicate that becoz the LTTE exists it shows that the tamils are brave is akin to saying that because the Lakhsar exists muslims are brave...that's crap...insurgent groups take a very special type of recruit...generally those without families or loners or those who dont socialize in society etc.....then indoctrinate/brainwash them completely into laying down their lives for the insurgent is a very different situation wherein a 'normal person' joins a professional army voluntarily and there is no indoctrination etc....

yes, the LTTE was formidable...but that has nothing to do with mainstream tamil society.


Anonymous said...

@Anon 5.08 PM

Getting angry are we?? Sign of desperation. They can't join bcoz the so called "Indian" Army won't recruit them. It is as "open" as uber corrupt Govt of "India", which is ruled by a select coterie of bureaucrats, politicians and businessmen belonging to a particular region of the country. It is "democracy" only for the namesake. Why is more than 80% of the country witnessing some kind of internal revolt?? Which part of the country is calm?? Those are the regions and it's people who are the real power center and the people who decides how and who runs the country and this also applies to the Indian Army.

What is the difference between and "insurgent" group and so called "professional" army? Aren't they both fighting for a cause and for the people they represent??

So why couldn't the "troops" capture the hills without the bombs?? After the bombs blast away every life form within a radius of few 100 meters, even a babe can capture any place.

Ask Yanks about wars in Iraq and Afghanistan?? This is precisely what I was talking about!!! You are simply contradicting yourself. LOL!! It was easy to blast away the regular army aka "boots on the ground" of Saddam Hussain or Mullah Omar but another thing to fight the "insurgents" of Muqtada al-Sadr or that of Jalaluddin Haqqani. It was the same "insurgent" Viet Congs who made them "cowards".

The same cowards could track and hunt down Osama thru tech. It is the same technology that helped US to win the Gulf Wars although they had vastly smaller number of "boots on the ground".

Learn history.......stooopid XD

Anonymous said...

to anony @ 9:13 PM

I think you should refrain from commenting on this blog - you clearly are someone who sits behind a desk and reads time magazine and copies punchline statements from it...without having any knowledge of weapons, or warfare....and by doing this do dishonor all those who serve in uniform.

Where ignorance is bliss it is folly to be wise.

enjoy your ignorant state

Anonymous said...

Please distinguish the Sikhs from the Punjabis. Sikhs are Punjabis, but all punjabis are not sikhs.
Punjabis include hindus (Arya Punjabis and Sikhs)

Punjabi lobby exists, and is well known, but sikhs have never had a lobby. And I agree with the earlier poster that sikhs have served the nation fearlessly but have not been represented at the top post.

Distinguish the sikhs from the punjabi lobby please. It is like saying all south indians are from madras.

Rajan said...

"Jaguar Tiger", the only difference between you and Anon is that his name is Anon, and yours is what it is, you are both anonymous for all we know.

Don't shoot the messenger, learn to be a little more tolerant.
Anon is entitled to his viewpoint. Listen and understand why he says what he says. I for one agree with what he/she has said. There is an element of truth in what has been written.