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Nobody does a fancy dress party on Line of Control: Gen. Singh

Government must stand by national security commitments when dealing with Pakistan, says India’s former Army Chief.

By Bala Chandran

WASHINGTON, DC: General Vijay Kumar Singh retired as India’s 26th Chief of Army last year, after serving for over two years. A third generation officer, he has set many milestones in his distinguished career, including being the first trained commando to be promoted general, as well as being the first serving military chief to take the government to court over a dispute of his date of birth.

Gen. Vijay Kumar Singh
Gen. Vijay Kumar Singh; photo credit: Bala Chandran

An exceptional officer, who commanded the 2nd Battalion of The Rajput Regiment along the Line of Control with Pakistan, he has also seen action in the 1971 war with Bangladesh. He is an expert in counter insurgency operations and high altitude operations, and the recipient of the Ati Vishisht Seva Medal (AVSM) for distinguished service while commanding a counter-insurgency force.

Towards the end of his career with the Indian Army, Gen. Singh voiced concern over corruption in the procurement process for the Army, and alleged that he had been offered a bribe of $2.7 million, which he said he reported to the government. Post retirement, Gen. Singh has also been a vociferous supporter of social activist Anna Hazare.

Gen. Singh recently toured the US, and interacted with the community at several cities. In an exclusive interview to The American Bazaar, Singh voiced his opinion on numerous issues, including the recent intrusions by Pakistan at the Line of Control, and the border flare-ups with China.

Excerpts from the interview:

Early in your career you commanded a regiment, the Rajput regiment, on the Line of Control. There have been several intrusions and violations by Pakistan recently. What is your sense of the situation?

See, Line of Control has its own dynamics. Both the sides have a mechanism to control incidents on the Line of Control. We should leave it to the Indian Army to sort those issues out. When you start looking at political gains and what political capital or non-capital can be made out of it, then things go wrong. Like they have in this particular thing where an incident was presented in different light in the Parliament by saying that the people dressed as Pakistan army came across the Line of Control. I am sure nobody does a fancy dress party on Line of Control. So let’s leave things to the Army to sort out. There is a clear cut mechanism available right from the Company Commander level up to the Director General of Operations of both the countries and things can be sorted out between them. And if things are not getting sorted out, that is where the Government must stand by national security commitments when dealing with Pakistan.

You were the first commando to be made the Army chief. What do you attribute your tremendous success to in the Army?

India is a great country. I came from a very humble background, rose up to be the Chief. I think it is the strength of democracy and the Indian Army’s own system where myriad (personnel) gets recognized. See, the Army has a fair and evenly feel for everybody. If you are hard-working, you do well, you will rise and if you have some extra achievement, it only helps you.

India is also facing an increasingly aggressive China who has made several intrusions into Indian territory recently. Does India need to strengthen its borders with China?

The borders with China are not delineated, not demarcated. This has to be done. China has settled its borders with all the countries except India. Why? This question needs to be asked by everybody. And what I would say while dealing with China (is), a firm policy helps. So the Government of India must look at it rather than thinking of the policy of 1950’s that did not get us anywhere.

India and the US have conducted several joint exercises. What are some of the things the services in India have taken from these exercises?

The exercises result in certain things which can be used for interoperability of both the forces and that is what has worked out in terms of experience gained by our special forces along with the special forces of US. We have also done exercises in our counter insurgency school, which have been very good and I am quite sure that both sides have gained from it. You must understand that every army has its own methodology of working. US has its own, we have our own. And once you look at each other it helps in honing up your own system.

Several corruption charges involving Services equipment and weapons have come to light in the past few years, including the recent AgustaWestland case. Is there need for more transparency in defense sector procurement?

There is a revamp required, there is transparency required, there is accountability required. I have been the victim of how the arms lobby started working against me. So what you want for the country is the best, what you want for the country is better technology, that must come and the price has to be just right; you can’t have a thing sold for $1 being sold for $100; that is wrong. That cannot be done. More I think (of it), government to government contracts may be needed.

What is your advice for the youth of today?

I would like to say that youth is the future of the country. It is the youth who is going to change the country. It is the youth which must look at its future and the future of India. I would like the youth to get together, interact together, both here in the community as well as with people in India and bring about the positive movement which will make India better. It is time now that the youth forgets about other things and start contributing towards nation building.


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