Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Highest French distinction given to people's Governor

 By Pradeep Kumar
Former army chief general (retired) J J Singh  Delhi was conferred with the highest French civilian distinction, Officer of the Legion of Honour, on April 11 last.

    Singh was chosen for the honour in recognition of his "stellar role" in modernising the Indian Army and initiating robust exchanges between the Indian and French armies leading to "unprecedented" levels of cooperation and inter-operability and creation of enduring ties and promotion of mutual understanding between the two countries, the French Embassy said here.

   'Officier de l'Ordre national de la Legion d'Honneur' is the highest civilian award given by the French Republic for outstanding service to France, regardless of the nationality of the recipients.  Singh was conferred the honour by French Ambassador to India, Francois Richier.

   An alumnus of the National Defence Academy and holder of a master's degree in Defence Science, Singh was commissioned into the 9th Maratha Light Infantry on 02.08.64.

    In January, 2003, he was appointed as the General Officer Commanding-in-Chief of the Army Training Command (ARTRAC), took over as Western Command Army Commander in January 2004 but assumed the office of Chief of Army Staff on 31.01.05 and appointed Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee of the three forces.

   Working tirelessly for the enhancement of military cooperation between the Indian and French armies, he led an inter-services delegation to France that year.

It was during his tenure that he mooted the idea of holding joint army exercises at the level already existing between the two countries' air forces (Garuda) and navies (Varuna).

"It was thus that the 'Shakti' inter-army exercise later came into being in 2011," the statement said.

In 2009, he was invited as the guest of honour for the French National Day military parade in Paris in which an Indian Army contingent took part for the first time.

   He earned the honour 'A soldier's General' before his  retirement in September 2007. He was appointed Arunachal Pradesh Governor on 27.01.08, wrote his  autobiography  'A soldier's General', but received the highest honours 'People's Governor' given by the people, as claimed by him. He demitted office on 28.05.13.

    With China oft repeatedly claiming over the territory of Arunachal Pradesh, the appointment of retired Army chief was a message that New Delhi meant business.

    Four days after resuming duty, workaholic Gen JJ air-dashed to insurgency-infested Tirpap district HQs Khosna to announce his doctrine to adopt 'Iron fist' denotes a ruthless and ‘no nonsense’ approach while tackling insurgents or terrorists and the 'velvet glove' shows humane approach when dealing with innocent ones. The only way to address terrorism is to deal with issues that create terrorism, to resolve them where possible and where that is not possible, to ensure that there is an alternative to violence. In fact, he has been invited to different parts of the world to advise ways to tackle insurgency and terrorism

   With development as buzzword, Gen JJ went on frequent tours, attempted to remove the hurdles to accelerate the process of development to win the hearts of the masses to be called 'People's governor'. His chemistry with the ruling chief minister was unique and unparalleled without any misgiving. Sobbing officer officers and those who loved him pulled the flower decorated jeep carrying Gen JJ and his wife Anupama Singh from Raj Bhawan to the helipad where he boarded a chopper on way to Delhi.

 The turnaround he had brought to the development process is lit large all over the state and list is very lengthy. The most important of all, according to me, was his sincere efforts to open border trade with China by reopening the historic Stillwell road. Anyone could drive at 100 km speed from Jairmapur to Pangsau Pass, the personal initiative of Gen JJ.

 He was well aware that 50% of world's rich in South East Asian nations and once the 1,726-km Stillwell road, from Ledo in Assam to Kunming in Yunan province of China, developed by US Army Gen Joseph Stillwell in 1945, once opens would herald a new era of economic development for this under developed state.

   Though the Indian Army had been refusing permission despite repeated efforts of the GoAP to open border trade by reopening the Stillwell road, the governor's recommendation as former Army chief could not be undermined. The state would reap its fruit very soon as he had described it to me in plain words.

As I am on a move in various parts of Odisha, Gen JJ's office cold contact me after  trying for three days to give me the details and confirm that the former governor had received my salutation.

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