The 25th Indian General to lead the world’s second largest army, General Bikram Singh PVSM UYSM AVSM SM VSM ADC, is one of the most decorated serving soldiers today. He was all set to join medical profession as most of his teachers believed he would. But the wars of 1962 and 1965 had a great impact on his young mind and motivated him to join the NDA in 1968. The medical fraternity’s loss has been the Indian Army’s gain. When asked whether he ever regrets the choice made, he says, “If I were ever to be born again, I would only join the Indian army.” He was commissioned on March 31, 1972, into the Sikh Light Infantry (SIKH LI) Regiment. His colleagues remember him as one of the brightest cadets at the Indian Military Academy (IMA), where he held the appointment of Battalion Cadet Adjutant (BCA). An astute military tactician and an ardent student of military strategy and operational art till date, he was awarded the J&K Rifles Gold Medal for ‘Tactics and Leadership’ and the ‘Shrinagesh Trophy’ at IMA.
The affable General Bikram — better known as Bikki — has won awards that remain the most coveted dream of every aspiring young officer. During his tenure as an instructor at the Commando Wing of the Infantry School, he found his life partner — Surjeet Kaur, popularly known as Bubbles. It was indeed love at first sight for them. The match was made before his return to the Commando School. “Within a week, things were arranged and we got engaged. However, I was not happy that our marriage was fixed for after six months. So, I told her to be prepared for marriage within a month. This happened after much convincing at home,” he says. After marriage Bubbles joined him at the Commando Wing of the Infantry School. The world of Army wives was new to her. Singh says, “I ensured Bubbles presence at all public demonstrations. This was for her to see and appreciate our commando skills and techniques.” Bubbles got a grand welcome in Bikram’s world. She says, “Bikki’s friends ensured that for nearly a monthand- half I didn’t have to cook any meal after I joined him.
Either we were invited to a friend’s house or they would send us meals at home.” Her tryst with the army life began on a note of bonhomie. Today, Bubbles has an equally important role to play alongside the General, as President AWWA (Army Wives Welfare Association), in the days and years ahead. The environs of South Block beckoned Gen Singh on several occasions. After the ‘Higher Command Course’, he served his first tenure in the Military Operations (MO) Directorate. The tenure, as a Director, coincided with the Kargil War and the bright officer was singled out to brief the media on the daily progress of the conflict. Later, he was also made responsible for writing the official version of the war history. He went on to serve four more important tenures at Army HQ which included one additional tenure in the MO Directorate as the Deputy Director General, thereafter, two tenures in the Perspective Planning Directorate, initially as the Deputy Director General of Perspective Planning (Strategy) and later, as the head of the Army’s ‘Think Tank’ as the Additional Director General (the appointment now has since been upgraded to the post of Director General). He later returned to Army HQ as a Lieutenant General to serve as the Director General Staff Duties (DGSD) that facilitates the overall functioning of various branches of Army HQ, and serves as an interface with other government agencies besides looking at the Indian Army’s training teams abroad and UN peacekeeping operations.
In between the staff roles, he went on to command several operational field formations. His tenure later as the Army Commander of Eastern Command was also marked by significant improvements in both the conventional and sub-conventional war-fighting arenas. In addition to the timely raisings of various field formations, the internal security canvas in all the militancy inflicted states has shown a marked improvement. The General ensured that all counter-terrorism operations were people friendly and contributed to peace. As a Brigadier, he was selected to attend the US Army War College, Pennsylvania.
His international forays with peace-keeping missions include two assignments with the United Nations in Central America (ONUCA and ONUSAL) and as the Deputy Force Commander and GOC of Eastern Division in the Democratic Republic of Congo. His division comprised contingents from 18 different countries. Colleagues also remember him for spending time and sweat with his troops. A shade of this was visible during the September 2011 earthquake in Sikkim when he visited all affected soldiers and awarded commendation medals to them for exceptional service.
— Gp Capt Tarun Singha VSM is the Chief PRO, Ministry of Defence based in Kolkata