On a day General Bikram Singh took over as the new army chief, defence minister AK Antony asked his top officials to forget the past and work on repairing the civil-military relationship that was badly frayed during General VK Singh’s controversial tenure.
This is the first admission by the minister that the relationship between the army and Centre was strained during the latter half of VK Singh’s tenure.
Antony told the officials, including defence secretary Shashikant Sharma, on Thursday that the “bitterness” that had crept into the relationship between the army and the government after VK Singh’s age row erupted last year “must not be carried forward,” seeking to bring down the curtains on what was a dark and inglorious chapter.
Antony asked the officials to ignore the “turbulent phase” as an “aberration” and wholeheartedly support Bikram Singh's roadmap for modernising the army. The minister's gesture is likely to improve the ties between the government and the army, apart from easing things for Bikram Singh.
A day before taking over as chief, Bikram Singh had said his foremost priority will be to modernise the army and ensure it was operationally ready to take on assigned tasks.
A highly decorated soldier, the 59-year-old general, known as Bikki to his friends, was commissioned into the Sikh Light Infantry in 1972.
The new army chief learnt his trade in the northeast and J&K where he commanded the entire gamut of military formations.
General Bikram Singh, who was schooled at Punjab Public School, Nabha, also brings to the table vast international experience having served in three UN Peacekeeping missions. He is the second Sikh ever to lead the Indian Army, the first being General JJ Singh.