TOP GUN: SinghA new war fighting doctrine has been propounded, the army needs modernising and it has to learn to fight in conjunction with the other two services.So General Joginder Jaswant Singh’s tenure as chief of army staff comes at a time when the Indian Army is at a doctrinal,TOP GUN: SinghA new war fighting doctrine has been propounded, the army needs modernising and it has to learn to fight in conjunction with the other two services.So General Joginder Jaswant Singh’s tenure as chief of army staff comes at a time when the Indian Army is at a doctrinal crossroads. A battle-scarred veteran, who led over 200 counter-insurgency operations in the Kashmir Valley, and a keen sportsman, the general is a straight-shooting soldier with matinee-idol looks and does not fight shy of hiding his emotions. Days after taking over as the 22nd chief of army staff, he sat down for an exclusive interview with Managing Editor Raj Chengappa and Special Correspondent Sandeep Unnithan to expound his vision for transforming the world’s third largest army into a 21st century fighting force and his plans to hook the troops onto sports like shooting. General Singh has about three years to execute his vision and, maybe, even complete his untitled work of fiction-he is a writer too-set in the backdrop of Kashmir militancy. Excerpts.Q. You are the first officer from the Sikh community to take over as the chief of army staff. What does this mean to you personally? A. I have often thought of this particular aspect. When I joined the army as a 15-year-old, the interview board asked me what my mother tongue was and I replied, Hindi. They were surprised. ‘But you are a Sikh,’ they said. As my father was in the army, I went wherever he was posted.advertisementI wasn’t and am still not fluent in Punjabi. In the army, our religion is that of our troops. In my 59 years, I have spent 41 with the Maratha troops and I know their culture, language, customs and traditions much more than I do of Sikhs. I think Iam firstly an Indian, then an Indian soldier, then a Maratha and then a Sikh.Q. After you took over, your first statement was that you wanted the army to have a human touch. How does this translate on the ground? A. It is nothing new. Our army is one of the most experienced in handling terrorism and insurgency. All of us who led our troops in sensitive assignments have achieved success when there were two things going for us-a professional attitude and a humane approach. The moment you sacrificed one of them, there was a problem.Now the acme of leadership and the real test of skills is how you can fine-tune these two requirements.Q. The recent events in the Northeast and Kashmir haven’t really helped the army’s image. A. I don’t agree that the army’s performance has been below par. By and large, it has conducted itself with credit and it is a difficult task when the enemy can be anywhere. He adopts all means fair and unfair to hit at us, to provoke and target us. Sometimes it is done deliberately to make sure that we respond and the response harms innocents so that we can be blamed.Q.But some transgressions of the army have had a negative impact. A. We are going to make the rank and file understand this-the stakes are very high and your conduct is as important as your operational efficiency. Professional skills and human touch have to blend.They have to ensure that they don’t transgress because one dead terrorist will not end terrorism. But one lady like Manorama Devi (her death sparked off protests in Manipur) can be a costly mistake. Imagine, the home minister had to make two visits, the army chief had to go too. As far as possible, we will try to stop people from conducting unprofessional operations.”I want a lean, highly professional force. We are improving our capabilities to fight in the future battlefield.” Q. What is your assessment of the ground situation in Kashmir? A. Certainly, the level of terrorism and insurgency in Kashmir has been contained. We should be able to bring this down to a very manageable level.Our endeavour will be to bring in normality to such a degree that the civil administration, police and the state machinery can deliver the goods to the people. That is my priority No. 1. We have to win over the people, they are the final determinant in any insurgency. I already see a turnaround.Q.Will you look at a further deinduction of troops from Kashmir? A. First we have to see the situation on the ground. Up to March, the place is covered by sno wand it is not the right time to make an assessment. We will wait for summer to make a conclusion on whether terrorism has been brought under control and if the force there can be pruned.Q. What is your approach towards dealing with terrorists? A.They will be dealt with ruthlessly. There will be no quarter given or taken.Q. Is the infrastructure of terror still intact across the LOC? A. According to intelligence reports, terrorist networks have not been dismantled.Q. If peace talks with Pakistan don’t succeed, will a hostile situation again develop? A. It will take some more time to make a judgement on this. The only thing I can say right now is that from our side we will keep our guard up. We will monitor the situation closely. There is a lot of internal strife in Pakistan and it is also deeply engaged in handling terrorism and certain institutions of terrorism along its border with Afghanistan.advertisementTerrorists are probably targeting Pakistan from those centres. So the devil has come home to roost and now Pakistan is taking action against the training schools and infrastructure which it has started.Q. So is the possibility of a war with Pakistan receding? A. I wouldn’t like to say that there is a possibility of war or that it is receding. As I have said, the indicators are that Pakistan is tied down to a lot of internal challenges and trouble along its western border.Q. What is your vision for the army? A. I would like to have a highly professional but lean army. I am going to lay more stress on ensuring our human resource is kept fully motivated, trained and adequately rested. We have to develop our capabilities to protect ourselves from threat from all quarters. While the intentions of neighbours and adversaries can change anytime, capabilities cannot be built overnight.Q. How will future wars in this region be fought? A. I believe that in future battles, the winner will be the one adept at fighting in all weather conditions and at night. We are improving our competence in these areas to fight in the modern battlefield. The revolution in military affairs and information warfare is going to have an impact on the way we fight.My motto has been ‘Fight to Win’ which means you enter a battlefield with the conviction that you will emerge victorious. I also believe that when the time comes, we will win not on points but by a knockout. This is my philosophy.
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