A 59-year-old Jat from Haryana who was involved in counter-insurgency operations in the Kashmir from July 2003 to March 2005 is the 26th chief of the Indian army staff. General Dalbir Singh Suhag who took oath of the office on July 31, 2014, following the retirement of General Bikram Singh will be leading a 1.3 million strong Indian army for two years and five months till December 31, 2016.
Born in a Jat family in Haryana’s Jhajjar district, Suhag will be the second officer from the Gorkha Rifles to become the army chief after the late field marshal Sam Manekshaw. He joined the National Defence Academy in 1970 and was commissioned into the 4th battalion of the 5 Gorkha Rifles in June 1974.
In 2012, he was put under a ‘discipline and vigilance’ ban by the then outgoing army chief Gen VK Singh for a failed intelligence operation in Jorhat in Assam which happened during his tenure as the 3 Corps commander. The ban was subsequently revoked by the next army chief General Bikram Singh. And later, he was promoted to become the commander of the Eastern Command on June 16, 2012. He then replaced lieutenant General SK Singh as the vice chief of army staff on December 31, 2013.
On June 10, 2014, central government had told Supreme Court that the alleged lapses which were made as grounds to impose disciplinary ban on Suhag by then army chief VK Singh, were “premeditated”, “vague” and “illegal”. And then on July 7, 2014, the apex court of India refused to stay or stall his appointment as next army chief.
On first day in office, the new Army chief was asked: how did India give a ‘befitting reply’ to Pakistan after the beheading of Lance Naik Hemraj along the line of control in Poonch on January 8, last year by Pakistani troops. Suhag in his reply warned Pakistan that India’s response to any beheading-like incident in future would be “more than adequate, intense and immediate”.
A fitness freak, Suhag (during his 40 years long career) has been a part of many military operations. He holds the distinction of commanding 8 Mountain Division in Kargil from October 2007 to December 2008. But the fact remains: he has taken over Indian army at a time when the force is facing challenges of modernisation in its artillery, air defence arms and is also preparing itself for facing a possible multi-front war.