You could call it the former army chief's magnum opus, an autobiography running to nearly 400 pages. And like many soldier autobiographies, it's all about "naam, nishan, namak, dastur and izzat". There's a wealth of detail about his family, the army tradition (JJ is a third generation soldier), days in the NDA/IMA and the highlights of his army career. Interesting in parts, tedious elsewhere.
The meat lies in the chapter Leadership and Command Experience (pg 278) where JJ defends himself against the charge by the recently retired Gen VK Singh, of doing injustice to him on the date of birth issue to ensure another Sikh would become army chief. JJ's point, he never directly corresponded with VK Singh when the age controversy came up in 2006 (but as chief JJ would have known what was going on, besides his Military Secretary was from his own regiment), nor he says did VK ever complain against the army order at that time requiring him to accept 1950 as the date of birth.
Gen Singh writes... "comments... that this issue was raked up by me in 2006 with a 'succession plan' and parochial agenda in mind are preposterous, malicious and incorrect to say the least." The General argues that he was the one who recommended Gen VK Singh to head a strike corps, and had even taken him on his first visit abroad to Oman and the UK.
Gen JJ Singh faults Gen VK Singh for going public on a personal matter, taking the sheen off the army and wonders why he could not have behaved like Gen SK Sinha, who although superseded as chief went with grace and dignity.
Gen Singh's views on internal security and counter insurgency do not reveal any great insight, like all soldiers he is against lifting of AFSPA but notes..." if there are any ambiguities they need to be sorted out". There are also details of some of the operations he was involved in which are interesting.
The writing is simple and unremarkable, which is what one expects from a soldier. The book is welcome because so few chiefs (for that matter so few army officers) write about their experiences. It may not change the perception of those who served with or under the General and it's a fact he has many critics.
Gen JJ Singh (and his successor's) "live and let live" policy is seen as contributing to the moral degeneration of the Indian Army's officer corps. It was this degeneration that Gen VK Singh (for all his many faults) tried to arrest. Unfortunately, it was a task left half done as his personal issues took priority. The ball is now in Gen Bikram's court.
Book: A Soldier's General, An Autobiography; Author: Gen JJ Singh; Publisher: HarperCollins; Price: Rs 799/-