General Bipin Rawat dies in helicopter crash: First CDS who brought India’s theatre command to life

Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat passed away when an Indian Air Force helicopter met with an accident near Coonoor in Tamil Nadu

FP Staff December 08, 2021 18:08:15 IST

On Wednesday, the nation was left stunned and speechless when Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat passed away when an Indian Air Force helicopter met with an accident on Wednesday near Coonoor in Tamil Nadu.

CDS Bipin Rawat was on his way to the Defence Staff College in Wellington to deliver a lecture when the incident took place.

With Rawat's passing away, India has lost its first Chief of Defence Staff.

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Bipin Rawat had an illustrious and long career as an officer of the Indian Army. An alumnus of St Edward School, Shimla, and the National Defence Academy, Khadakwasla, he was was commissioned in the Fifth Battalion of the Eleven Gorkha Rifles (the same unit as his father) in December 1978, from Indian Military Academy, Dehradun, where he was awarded the ‘Sword of Honour’.

As an officer, Rawat had experience in high altitude warfare, and is a veteran of counter-insurgency operations in some of India’s most difficult terrains.

He commanded an Infantry battalion along the Line of Actual Control in the Eastern Sector; a Rashtriya Rifles Sector and an Infantry Division in the Kashmir Valley, a Corps in the Eastern theatre and the Southern Command. He also tenanted instructional appointments at Indian Military Academy, Dehradun and at Army War College, Mhow.

He was instrumental in reducing militancy in the northeast, with one of his career highlights being the Indian Army’s successful response to an ambush by NSCN-K militants in Myanmar in 2015. Under Rawat’s supervision, the mission was carried out from the operation command of the Dimapur-based III Corps.

He was also involved in the planning for the 2016 surgical strikes, which saw the Indian Army cross the Line of Control into Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. Rawat, it was reported, was keeping an eye on the situation from South Block in New Delhi.

During the span of his service, which is more than 40 years, Rawat was awarded for gallantry and distinguished service with the Param Vishisht Seva Medal, Uttam Yudh Seva Medal, Ati Vishisht Seva Medal, Vishisht Seva Medal, Yudh Seva Medal, and Sena Medal.

Rawat served as a Brigade Commander, General Officer Commanding-in-Chief (GOC-C) Southern Command, General Staff Officer Grade 2 at the Military Operations Directorate, Colonel Military Secretary and Deputy Military Secretary in the Military Secretary’s Branch, and Senior Instructor in the Junior Command Wing during his four decades of service.

He has also served as a member of the United Nations Peacekeeping Force and led a multinational brigade in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

On 17 December, 2016, Rawat took over the reins of the Indian Army from General Dalbir Singh Suhag, as the 27th Chief of Army Staff (COAS).

Later on 31 December, 2019, he made history by becoming India's first Chief of Defence Staff. The government paved the way for Rawat's appointment to the post by amended Army rules to raise the superannuation age from 62 to 65 years. Rawat also served as the permanent chairman of the Chief of Staff Committee (COSC).

The role of CDS is to be a one-point advisor to the government on matters related to the military and function with the main aim of integrating the three services — Army, Navy and the Air Force.

One of his most notable achievements is the theaterisation of the Indian Armed Forces.

Rawat was tasked with taking the 17 single-service commands that currently exist and combining them into just four geographical commands, each with elements from all three services. As per Rawat's plan, the theaterisation model sought to set up four new integrated commands — two land-centric theatres, an air defence command, and a maritime theatre command — to best utilise the military’s resources for future wars and operations.

He also introduced modernisation of the troops of the Armed Forces and also brought in a new approach of staggered procurement of major military platforms.

General Rawat was also not a man who minced his words. In fact, his bold statements sometimes also caused him problems with the Centre.

After the Supreme Court decriminalised gay sex, General Rawat said, “We will not allow this to happen in the Army”.

Maintaining that the Army is not above the law, he said issues concerning the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans) within the forces will be dealt with under various sections of the Army Act.

In December 2019, he also commented on the anti-Citizenship Amendment Act protests and said that students are being led into “inappropriate directions.”

“Leaders are not those who lead people in inappropriate directions, as we are witnessing a large number of university and college students. The way they are leading masses of crowds to carry out arson and violence in cities and towns. This is not leadership," he was quoted as saying.

In 2018, he stirred the hornet's nest when when he remarked that the All India United Democratic Front (AIUDF) has been growing faster than the BJP in Assam because of the support of Muslims, with Pakistan and China pushing Bangladeshi migrants into the northeast part of the country to destabilise India.

With inputs from agencies

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