General J.J. Singh’s ‘A Soldier’s General’: an inspiring read


To be honest I went to the book launch of JJ Singh, who in 2005 became the first Sikh to lead the Indian army, not because I’m interested in Generals , but rather I support many of the projects and events put on by the host Dr Rami Ranger.

But I was surprised just how impressive this man had been. Moreover, listening to his peers he came across as a man who deeply cared about the unity of India. He believed that all religions and their followers must be acutely respected and given a voice in modern India.

Singh was impressive on many levels not least by the fact that he was soldier who believed that as a leader you fight from the front, and as a result often refused comfortable commissions behind a desk to be with his men fighting insurgents in inhospitable terrains.

Here OBV’s Parmila Kumari writes a full account of JJ Singh.

Simon Woolley

Last week, the High Commissioner of India, Dr. Jaimini Bhagwati, was joined by a host of dignitaries at the launch of General J.J. Singh’s autobiography entitled ‘A Soldier’s General’.

The autobiography is of Joginder Jaswant Singh, India's first Sikh army chief and the first from the elite Maratha Light Infantry Regiment to reach the rank. It details the ex-army chief’s 47 years in the army from joining at 15 years old to his experiences of the situation in Jammu and Kashmir and the Sino-India border dispute; his close involvement in the planning of the Kargil war, and actions as brigade commander in Kashmir (1991-3) in informing villagers of the methods used by militants to influence them for recruitment.

The book has been described by others as something which;

“…speaks about the military man, about the administrator, and about a secular, democratic, human being who cared for the prestige of the country, good governance and human rights, in him… [it] should be read to understand the history of India, and the armed forces and the Indian ethos, and the systems that guide the country”. The Punjab Governor and Administrator UT Chandigarh, Shivraj V. Patil

The author has admitted that considering the highly emotive nature of the issues dealt with within the span of his career, it has been difficult to put his experiences onto paper. Despite this General J.J. Singh states that the book gives an insight into the discussions by an ex-army chief of issues such as defence policy, modernisation of the army and corruption.

The launch itself was organized by the Shaheed Nanak Singh Foundation with a keynote address by Paul Uppal MP . The Shaheed Nanak Singh Foundation organised the launch of this book because of its founding member, Shaheed Nanak Singh’s opposition of partition in India, which resulted in his assassination. In his last public speech in 1947, whilst trying to save college students in the midst of riots, Singh said:

Once we go our separate ways, we will have very little in common and it may lead to conflicts of interests. We must not put religion above our country. We are Indian first then Sikh, Hindu or Muslim.

This viewpoint very much mirrors the attitude of the author of the book, General J.J. Singh, who rejects being called the first Sikh to head the army. He has claimed that he is Indian first and Sikh afterwards. He maintains:

I am a secular son of India. I never considered myself as the first Sikh to become the army chief.

Thus, it seems that ‘A Soldier’s General’ will prove an interesting insight into understanding such a mentality as well as India’s armed forces.

Parmila Kumari