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Officer and gentleman

Deepak Kapoor's Sainik School mates still talk nineteen to the dozen about the finesse with which he wielded the hockey stick as captain and scripted many a victory for the school team, writes Rahul Singh.

india Updated: Sep 28, 2007 22:58 IST
Rahul Singh
Rahul Singh
Hindustan Times

His Sainik School mates still talk nineteen to the dozen about the finesse with which he wielded the hockey stick as captain and scripted many a victory for the school team. When commissioned into the artillery over four decades ago, Deepak Kapoor’s playground changed, but his winning habit stayed on.

As the 59-year-old gunner prepares to wear one more star on his uniform epaulette he becomes the country's new army chief on September 30 Lt General Kapoor’s school friends say he always had all the trappings of a leader. A serving major-general who was Kapoor's junior in Sainik School, Kunjpura says: “He would demonstrate strong leadership qualities and dynamism in school. We knew he was destined to achieve greatness one day.”

An alumnus of the Defence Services Staff College as well as National Defence College, Kapoor holds an MBA with an academic bent of mind. Apart from sundry military literature and journals, he reads 12 newspapers front to back each day. Former Lt. General Vinay Shankar, who retired as director-general of artillery, says Kapoor stands out for his “judicious nature and sincerity”.

Kapoor is a stickler for details. As vice-chief of army staff, it's a regular practice for junior colleagues to brief him on a variety of matters. A senior army officer says, “He expresses displeasure at officers who speak without doing their homework. But, he also goes out of his way to acknowledge hard work.”

Not many young officers would have the chutzpah to fall for their brigade commander's daughter. The Maha Vir Chakra that adorned the uniform of Brigadier KP ‘Tom’ Pande failed to frighten Kapoor, who had made up his mind to make the war hero's daughter, Kirti, his bride.

Kapoor is a dedicated family person and loves spending time with wife Kirti and their two children.

He balances the call of duty and family ties in a way that should inspire army men.

Shortly before Kapoor was named General JJ Singh’s successor, there was widespread speculation that two army commanders had staked their claim for the army chief's post. Kapoor, who was all along tipped to be the next chief, remained unruffled, poise that perhaps flows from the fact that General Kapoor’s credentials are impressive.

After returning from a challenging UN assignment, Kapoor was given the command of an infantry brigade on the line of control in the Uri sector when infiltration was at a high.

He slipped into the daunting role with an ease that comes only from experience and knowledge and was awarded a Sena Medal for “devotion towards duty”.

Kapoor’s career graph soared higher. The reins of the prestigious RAM division part of a strike corps that takes the lead on battlefront were in his hands during Operation Parakram, the tense stand-off with Pakistan in 2001-02.

He has wide-ranging experience in low-intensity conflicts in the J&K and Northeast. Kapoor has also headed the Shimla-based Army Training Command, which conceptualises, plans and coordinates all training activities in the army.

Kapoor’s appointment as the General Officer Commanding-in-Chief of the Udhampur-based Northern Command in September 2005 was a landmark responsibility.

The Northern Command is the nerve-centre of counter-terrorism operations in the J&K and responsible for guarding the country's borders from the Siachen Glacier to the Jammu region.

Those who have known Kapoor closely say he is unassuming, impartial and professionally sound.

“He is very correct in his behaviour. He is the epitome of an officer and a gentleman and loved by colleagues,” says Lieutenant-General Mohinder Puri, who retired as the army’s deputy chief last year.

Lt Gen Kapoor’s experience is wide-ranging but it is his familiarity with border operations that will come in handy when he takes over as army chief.

He commanded the Siliguri-based 33 Corps, which handles the sensitive Indo-Tibetan border. He was also chief of staff of the Tezpur-based 4 Corps, which is responsible for all counter-insurgency operations in Assam.

Kapoor has proved his military mettle and tactical talent on foreign shores as well.

He represented the country as chief operations officer for the United Nations Peacekeeping Mission in Somalia from 1994 to 1995 where he was awarded the Vishist Seva Medal for distinguished service.

Kapoor’s achievement is a moment of glory for all Sainik Schools, as he would be the first alumnus to don the four-star rank.