Gen. Bikram Singh has taken charge as the chief of the Indian army, succeeding Gen. V.K. Singh, who retired from the post after a controversial 26-month tenure.

A veteran infantry officer, Bikram Singh will be the 25th general to lead the country’s 1.13 million-member army, the second largest in the world. He will have a tenure of two years and three months in the top post.

Singh says he expects to work toward repairing relations with the Indian government and modernize the army’s outdated equipment.

“My first priority will be to ensure operational readiness of the army,” he says. “Secondly I will address the hollowness and ensure modernization proceeds as per stipulated timelines. Finally, I will strengthen the army’s work culture.”

Singh was heading the Kolkata-based Eastern Army Command and held several important positions in counterinsurgency areas before his appointment as the army chief. Singh was also the face of the Indian army during the Kargil war with Pakistan in 1999.

His appointment as chief comes at a time when the Indian army has been beset with infighting and corruption allegations, crippling operational gaps and modernization delays, and a sharpened civil-military divide.

Last year, there was unprecedented tension between the Indian government and the outgoing army chief over his retirement. Earlier this year, V.K. Singh took the government to court over the issue but lost the lawsuit.

At the same time, the media published a leaked letter from V.K. Singh to the prime minister complaining that much of India’s defense equipment was “97% obsolete” and forces were “woefully short” of essential weapons. The letter caused an uproar in parliament.

Bikram Singh is an alumnus of the National Defense Academy and the Indian Military Academy. He also attended the U.S. Army War College at Carlisle, Pa.

Gen. Bikram Singh photo: Press Information Bureau