General Bipin Rawat was working to modernise Indian military

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After 43 years in service, Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat (63) was tasked with making the Indian military modern and capable of dealing with any emerging security challenges on the Northern or Western borders.

Unfortunately, his life was cut short after a tragic chopper crash on Wednesday 8 Dec in the Nilgiri Hills in Tamil Nadu killed Rawat, his wife and 11 others onboard the ill-fated helicopter.

General Rawat took charge as India’s first Chief of Defence Staff on January 1, 2020. The position was created to integrate the three services – Army, Navy and Air Force. The CDS is mandated to facilitate integration, ensure best economical use of resources allocated to the armed forces and bring uniformity in the procurement procedure.

As CDS, General Rawat was also the Principal Military Advisor to the Defence Minister on all tri-services matters.

Later, he was also appointed as the head of the newly-created Department of Military Affairs.

He became Chief of Army Staff on December 31 2016, after the retirement of General Dalbir Singh Suhag, and served three years.

When he took over as Chief of Defence Staff, General Rawat vowed to work to create more synergy among the three services.

“The CDS is mandated to facilitate integration, ensure best economical use of resources allocated to the armed forces and bring uniformity in the procurement procedure. I want to assure you that the Army, Navy and Air Force will work as a team and the CDS will ensure integration among these,” he had said.

He was an alumnus of National Defence Academy, Defence Services Staff College Wellington, and National Defence College. He also attended the Command and General Staff Course at Fort Leavenworth in the US.

During his distinguished career in the Army, General Rawat commanded an infantry battalion along the Line of Actual Control in the Eastern Sector, a Rashtriya Rifles Sector, an infantry division in the Kashmir Valley and a Corps in the Northeast.

General Rawat had also commanded a Multinational Brigade in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

As an Army Commander, he commanded a theatre of operations along the Western Front and was appointed the Vice Chief of the Army Staff before assuming office of Chief of Army Staff.

During his 43-year career, General Rawat has been awarded several gallantry and distinguished service awards.

The accident

General Rawat and his wife were among the 13 persons who were killed after the Mi17V5 helicopter they were travelling in crashed near Coonoor in Tamil Nadu.

“With deep regret, it has now been ascertained that General Bipin Rawat, Mrs Madhulika Rawat and 11 other persons onboard have died in the unfortunate incident,” the Indian Air Force said in a statement.

Gen Bipin Rawat with his wife Madhulika (Source: IANS)

General Rawat was on his way to the Defence Services Staff College at Wellington in Nilgiri Hills to address the faculty and student officers of the staff course.

Out of the 14 people onboard, the lone survivor, Group Captain Varun Singh, Directing Staff at the Defence Services Staff College, is currently undergoing treatment at the Military Hospital in Wellington.

Madhulika Rawat, Brigadier L.S. Lidder, Lieutenant Colonel Harjinder Singh, Naik Gursewak Singh, Naik Jitender Kumar, Naik Vivek Kumar, Naik B. Sai Teja and Havaldar Satpal were travelling along with General Rawat.

Apart from them, two pilots, a Group Captain and a gunner were onboard the ill-fated chopper.

Singh, along with his wife and seven staff, boarded a flight at Delhi for the Sulur IAF base near Coimbatore at 8:47. They landed in Sulur at 11:34 am. From there, they boarded the Mi17V5 helicopter at 11:48. At 12:22 pm, the Air Traffic Control (ATC) lost contact with the chopper, which crashed in a forest area around 7 km near Coonoor.

Crash site at Coonoor (Source: IANS)

The IAF said a Court of Inquiry has been ordered into the accident. The report is expected in one month.

The mortal remains of all the deceased will be brought to Delhi on Thursday  9 Dec.


Some Tributes

US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin:
“General Rawat left an indelible mark on the course of the US-India defense partnership and was at the center of the Indian Armed Forces’ transformation into a more jointly integrated warfighting organisation. I and the [Defense] Department extend our deepest condolences to the Rawat family, the Indian military, and the people of India after the tragic passing of Chief of Defense Staff General Bipin Rawat in a helicopter crash.

Gen Rawat with US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres: “I am deeply saddened by the death of General Bipin Rawat, India’s Chief of Defence Services and a veteran of UN peacekeeping operations.
He served the United Nations with distinction, and we fully appreciated that work. My heartfelt condolences to the families and the deceased to the people and government of India.”
(Gen Rawat was the Kivu Brigade Commander in the peacekeeping operation, United Nations Organisation Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo known by its French initials as MONUSCO, during 2008-2009 when he had the rank of Lt General.)

Gen Rawat with UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres in Congo (Source: IANS)

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