Lieutenant General B S Raju, who will take over as the new Director General of Military Operations (DGMO), handed over the charge of the strategic XV Corps of the Army, which guards the Line of Control in Kashmir Valley, to Lt Gen D P Pandey on Wednesday.
At a simple ceremony held at the headquarters of the Srinagar-based XV Corps, the baton was handed over to Lt Gen Pandey, who was earlier serving as the Director General of Territorial Army.
He has also served in Kashmir as the General Officer Commanding (GOC) of the counter-insurgency Kilo Force.
In his farewell message to the XV Corps also known as 'Chinar Corps', Lt Gen Raju complimented all ranks for their dedication and hard work and thanked police, central armed paramilitary forces, civil administration, and the people for their relentless support in the joint efforts towards peace and prosperity in Jammu and Kashmir.
Having served as the Uri Brigade Commander, GOC of Victor Force (anti-militancy unit overlooking south and central Kashmir), and GOC Chinar Corps, Lt Gen Raju reinforced and institutionalised high professional standards and ethical conduct in combat operations, officials said.
"He moves to assume higher responsibilities as Director General of Military Operations of the Indian Army," one of the officials said.
During his stay, Lt Gen Raju strongly propagated for a second chance to the misguided youth as he believed it to be critical to achieving lasting peace in Jammu and Kashmir.
The Army took proactive steps to connect with the youth, including those who have picked up guns against the state, and made collaborative efforts along with society members, families, and other stakeholders to encourage and facilitate return of the misguided youth from the path of terrorism.
The initiative yielded encouraging response in terms of surrenders, the officials said.
They said this policy will get additional impetus in the coming months.
Lt Gen Raju took over the command in a critical phase in 2020 when Kashmir was confronted with the twin challenges of terrorism and the COVID-19 pandemic and the tenure over the last one year, according to the officials, is defined by an improved security environment prevailing both on the Line of Control (LoC) and in Kashmir.
With the civil administration and security forces synergising their efforts to bring normalcy back to Kashmir, terrorism is on decline with assessed residual terrorist numbers being the lowest in a decade, they said.
On the LoC, his approach combined a forward heavy deployment enabled by a dense electronic and surveillance grid.
Pakistani ceasefire violations were given punitive responses resulting in operational ascendancy by the Indian Army, they said.
To complement relentless and successful counter-terrorist operations, Lt Gen Raju ensured an improved soldier-citizen connection which included many successful events all over the Kashmir Valley, co-opting civilians in various sports, culture, arts, education, skilling, and health initiatives.
The Army effectively used its deployment grid, especially in far-flung areas, to be the first respondent in case of need. Grassroots interactions such as intra-dialogue within the youth and 'Day with Company Commander' received overwhelming response, they said.
On Republic Day this year, Lt Gen Raju was awarded the prestigious Uttam Yudh Seva Medal (UYSM) in recognition of this contribution in taking Kashmir on a positive trajectory on the path of lasting peace.