| Gen. (retd) J.J. Singh |
Itanagar, Nov. 4: Three years back, he led the world’s second largest army. Today, the former army chief, Gen. (retd) J.J. Singh, is leading Team Arunachal, the primary focus of which is development of the sensitive frontier state. Anyone who can contribute to its development and promotion is a member and gets a lapel pin badge from him. Gradually, the initiative has seen him being acknowledged as the people’s governor.
The Telegraph caught up with Gen. Singh to know his views on a host of pressing issues confronting the frontier state which appears to have seen the end of a politically turbulent phase. Excerpts from the interview:
TT: This is the 50th year of the Sino-Indian war. So many years down the line, how is India prepared today to thwart another attack?
JJS: I would like to re-emphasise that there is peace and tranquillity along our northern borders with the Tibet autonomous region of China. As I see it, we are in the process of building roads and subsidiary airfields to primarily address the development concerns and socio-economic enhancement of the people of Arunachal Pradesh, particularly those living in the remote border areas. We have to look at this infrastructure from the socio-economic development point of view. These will help in marketing of goods produced in remote areas which will eventually boost overall development. The fact that this infrastructure might also come in handy in times of an emergency and contribute effectively towards the defence of our nation is unexceptionable.
What have you got to say about reported intrusions by Chinese soldiers in Arunachal Pradesh? Are confidence-building measures helping?
JJS: I would like to put this phenomenon across differently. Because of perceptional differences of the alignment of the border in a few areas, both sides carry out patrolling activities upto their perceived boundary. This pattern has not changed from the past. The fact that there is peace and tranquillity along the northern borders shows that the confidence-building measures are in place and are effective.
What is your government doing to check Tirap and Changlang districts from being used as a corridor by militant groups for sneaking into Myanmar? The two districts have also become a battleground for NSCN factions.
JJS: It’s true. The activities of the NSCN factions, which are a spillover of the problem in Nagaland, have vitiated the peaceful environment in Tirap and Changlang districts. We are working towards a synergised strategy that will tackle the menace of infiltration and exfiltration of the various terrorist groups through the Arunachal-Myanmar border, as well as their unlawful actions in the hinterland, i.e. Assam.
What about growing Ulfa activities along your state’s border with Assam?
JJS: Unless both aspects are tackled effectively, this challenge cannot be met successfully. I had strongly recommended the creation of an apex body — a state-level core group on security with the chief minister as the chairperson with high ranking representatives of the army, police, paramilitary forces along with the chief secretary and other civilian officials as members. This set-up is in place now. I have also raised this issue in the recently held governor’s conclave in the national capital. There has been an improvement compared to when I took charge in January 2008.
TT: What about growing Ulfa activities along your state’s border with Assam?
JJS: Some elements of terrorist groups operating in Assam, like Ulfa, NDFB, or other unlawful groups, take advantage of the thickly forested area of the Arunachal-Assam border and establish temporary hideouts there. The security forces have been neutralising these terrorists from time to time based on actionable intelligence. In our state, we have effectively nipped in the bud organisations like the National Liberation Council of Taniland.
TT: Why is there political instability in Arunachal Pradesh, particularly in the post-Gegong Apang era?
JJS: For a frontier state like Arunachal Pradesh, political stability is as vital as security and law and order. I would like to emphasise that during my tenure as the governor, there was a stable administration for the three-and-a-half years when the late Dorjee Khandu was the chief minister. Unfortunately, after his sudden demise, we have had to witness political uncertainty. I am confident that we shall overcome this phase and the state will see the fructification of most of the major developments launched in 2008, the railway connectivity, the highway from Guwahati, the trans-Arunachal highway, the state secretariat, the state Assembly building, water supply project for the capital are historical development projects and will be completed in the next few years, some in 2012-13 itself.
TT: What would you like to share about your stint so far in Arunachal Pradesh — pluses and minuses and how to resolve these?
JJS: My reflections regarding Arunachal Pradesh I will share on completion of my five-year tenure in February 2013.
TT: What are the areas you are focussing on?
JJS: I am encouraging tourism and socio-economic development of the rural areas after security. Arunachal Pradesh is an inalienable part of our country. And hence, we must provide every access to both Indian and foreign tourists. We must let them see the natural beauty of the state, meet the people and observe the historic phase of development taking place in our state. As far as possible, the people of the state should be the biggest beneficiaries of the development.
TT: How do you see the anguish among groups in Assam over the scores of dams coming up in your state?
JJS: The issue of utilisation of the untapped potential for hydropower has been thoroughly analysed by the Centre. Most of the projects are run-of-the-river projects and only a few dams are envisaged. The effect of these dams are also being analysed by experts who will take into account all aspects, including flood control, population displacement and environmental concerns.