A second generation Army officer, Lt General Syed Ata Hasnain, PVSM, UYSM, AVSM, SM, VSM & BAR, is an alumni of Sherwood College Nainital and St Stephen’s College, two of India’s finest educational institutions. His father was also a General Officer of the Indian Army.He has had a brilliant track record in the Army having topped most of the prestigious training courses before going on to be nominated for the Executive Course at the Asia Pacific Centre at Hawaii in 2000 and for the most prestigious military program of the world, the Royal College of Defence Services Course at London UK in 2006.
Extensively experienced in handling of turbulent situations across the spectrum of conflict General Hasnain has had seven tours of duty in the state of Jammu & Kashmir, including appointments such as Commanding Officer in Siachen Glacier, Colonel General Staff at the Rashtriya Rifles Victor Force in South Kashmir, as Brigade Commander at Uri on the LoC, and as General Officer Commanding of the famous Dagger Division at Baramula (LoC – Kashmir). He commanded the Sudarshan Chakra Strike Corps at Bhopal before he was handpicked to move as Corps Commander of the 15 (Chinar) Corps when Kashmir was rocked by the turbulent stone throwing agitation in 2010.
Through 2010 to 2012 he used the most unique methodology of balancing hard and soft power to give Kashmir its most stable period in the last many years. General Hasnain’s novel approach, clear understanding of the mission of integrating the Kashmiri people with rest of India, strong articulation skills which he used to conduct the famous Awami Sunwai programs, understanding of the culture and social milieu of the Valley and ability to provide leadership across the spectrum of society, brought him into great prominence leading to the OUTLOOK magazine featuring him on its cover on 12 Sep 2011.
The changes he brought about in the concept of counter terrorist operations led to the dilution in terrorist capability while his social empowerment programs won him the title ‘People’s General’. The prevailing peace in Kashmir in 2012 and 2013 and the excellent tourist seasons have been very largely attributed to his ability to turn the situation around.
General Hasnain’s track record in the United Nations operations in Mozambique and Rwanda won him international acclaim and the first of his decorations, the Vishisht Seva Medal. He has, thereafter been decorated five more times by the President of India with Param Vishisht Seva Medal, Uttam Yudh Seva Medal, Ati Vishisht Seva Medal, Sena Medal and Bar to Vishisht Seva Medal. With two Commendations Cards to his credit he remains one of the most decorated officers of the Indian Army.
General Hasnain has a fine academic record with a BA (Honours) in History from St Stephen’s College, MSc from Chennai University, M Phil from Indore University and an MA in International Studies from the Kings College, University of London. He lectures on strategic subjects and Leadership at Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies (IDSA), National Defence College, College of Defence Management, Army War College and Defence Services Staff College and Jamia Millia Islamia. He has been a popular speaker at various seminars of All Indian Management Association, various Management Institutions including IIM Indore and the Rajaratnam School for International Studies, Singapore. His subjects of focus have been ’National Security Perspective’, ‘Change Management’, ‘The Future of Political Islam’, Kashmir, Afghanistan, China and Pakistan.
He is also adept at media handling due to his vast experience in unpredictable situations and ability to articulate in English, Hindi and Urdu. He now writes for The Indian Express, The Hindu, The Tribune, Deccan Chronicle, Deccan Herald, Mail Today, South Asia Defence and Strategic Review and South Asian Institute for Defence Studies besides the IDSA and Centre for Land Warfare Studies. He participated in the Global Town Hall on Counter Narratives to Violent Extremism held at Singapore in Sep 2013. The General is also a Senior Fellow with Delhi Policy Group and Visiting Fellow with Vivekanand International Foundation, two of Delhi’s leading think tanks on strategic affairs. He is consultant with India Foundation and Surya Foundation, two other major think tanks of Delhi General Hasnain’s people handling and Emotional Intelligence skills have earned him many accolades. Besides Kashmir, his last appointment in the Army as the Military Secretary saw him entrusted with the most difficult task of turning around the Human Resource management of the 40,000 strong officer cadre of the Army.
General Hasnain achieved the near impossible by turning around the image of the Military Secretary’s Branch with his now famous credo ‘Play Friend, Not God’.
In the appointment of Commander Junior Command Wing at the Army War College, Mhow, General Hasnain transformed the concept of learning, emphasizing on the need for wider reading habits, cerebral approach through interactive learning and debate and investigation into rationale and reasoning. He initiated the Scholar Warrior Concept at the Army War College.
Gen Hasnain’s services to the Nation were further recognized on 7 Sep 2013 with the award of the Capital Foundation Society Award for Excellence in Military Leadership at the hands of the Vice President of India. Other recipients of the same award on the occasion were the current Finance and Defence Minister of India, Shri Arun Jaitley and former Minister for Urban Affairs, Dr Jaipal Reddy.