The new Chief of Army Staff General Joginder Jaswant Singh on Tuesday said bringing a human touch to the anti-terror operations in Jammu and Kashmir will be among his top priorities.
General Singh said he no longer wanted reports like "Army kills 10" appearing in newspapers. "These kills are our misguided youth, not our enemy. No longer will we have such reports coming out from the army," he declared.
He said he will invite feedback from local people about how the army unit in their area is behaving and in future, unit citations -- a form of distinction so far given to those units most successful in tackling terrorists -- will also depend on this feedback.
Also see: Gen JJ Singh takes over as army chief
"I'll be happy if a unit does a good job and gets positive feedback rather than just notch up more terrorists," he said.
The army chief said when he was heading the anti-terrorist operations, he would make it a point to talk to the local people, hear their concerns and also spell out the army's concerns and fears. He said such measures are invaluable in weaning people away from terrorism.
General Singh said he will ingrain in the army the dictum that it there is a serious doubt whether a person is a terrorist or not, such a person should go free. "In such a situation, you might let some terrorists go free; but I find that if you kill or arrest one innocent person, then you turn the entire family against you."
Earlier in the morning, India's 22nd chief of army staff, placed a wreath at Amar Jawan Jyoti, a memorial for armed forces personnel killed in war.
Amar Jawan Jyoti, located below the majestic India Gate, is a flame that burns round the clock all year long. Standing guard here are a personnel each from the army, the navy, and the air force.
After laying the wreath, Singh drove down Rajpath to South Block, which houses the army chief's office. On the lawns, there was a Guard of Honour by the 7th Maratha Light Infantry to welcome the new chief.
Singh was commissioned into the 9th Maratha Light Infantry in August 1964. He is the first officer from the Maratha Light Infantry and the first Sikh to wear four stars on his collar pips, both somewhat ironic considering that Sikhs comprise the largest ethnic group in the army and the Maratha Light Infantry is one of the older regiments of India.
After taking the salute, Singh went over to the shamiana that had been set up in front of South Block and where senior officers and their wives had gathered to witness the Guard of Honour. He was saluted and congratulated by other officers and their wives even as he sought the blessings of some family elders who had gathered.
Later, he addressed the gathered media, listing out his many priorities.
Saying he was privileged to head the world's second largest army (after China) the general said he would aim to take the army into the 21st century.
Pointing out the importance of information technology, he said future wars will see soldiers receive information on television sets via satellites. He said it is necessary to train soldiers and officers alike for such wars and for low-intensity conflicts, areas that he'd look into.
When asked about recent incidents of soldiers attacking civilians, he referred to the remarks by his predecessor, General (retired) N C Vij and reiterated that a couple of incidents should not be used to tarnish the image of the 1.2 million strong army. "But when something goes wrong, we do worry and look into it. Our is an introspecting army and such issues are of concern to us," he added.
He hailed the current ceasefire between India and Pakistan. "The ceasefire is a step in the right direction," he said, "it has meant fewer widows and fewer injured soldiers. But while the army welcomes the ceasefire, it does so without complacency or letting down its guard or its fight against terrorists."
He added that the army remains operationally ready for any challenge, whether from across the border or natural calamities such as the recent tsunami.
The general said he is keen to push ahead with the integration of the armed forces and insisted that while there is a shortage of officers, in the event of any war, there will be none. "Then, we'll move our officers from the support units to the combat units to ensure that there is no shortage," he said.
Singh said the reason for the shortage is not the declining interest in joining the services, but because the training infrastructure cannot absorb more soldiers.
Gen JJ Singh takes over as army chief
He brought near normalcy to J&K