New Delhi: A military chopper carrying senior officials, including Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat, crashed near Ooty in Tamil Nadu.
As per reports, CDS Gen Rawat, his staff and some family members were on board. A search and rescue operation has been launched from nearby bases.
Mi-17 V5 helicopter which has crashed between Coimbatore and Sulur in Tamil Nadu had 14 people onboard. CDS Bipin Rawat was traveling to Wellington Staff College for a lecture.
The IAF confirmed that the Mi-17V5 helicopter, with CDS Gen Bipin Rawat on board, has met with accident near Coonoor.
First tri-service chief of India
Former Indian Army chief General Bipin Rawat was on December 30 appointed the first tri-service chief with effect from December 31, 2019. General Rawat was the first sitting Chief of Army Staff to be appointed to the coveted post.
The government of India had amended the Army rules to extend the age of superannuation from 62 years to 65 years, paving the way for his appointment as the CDS.
In his role as the CDS, Gen Rawat was the one-point advisor to the government on matters related to the military and functioned with the main aim of integrating the three services — Army, Navy and the Air Force.
He also held the post of the permanent Chief of Staff Committee (COSC). He was a veteran of counterinsurgency warfare and has served in some of the most difficult terrains of India, including the northern and eastern commands.
General Bipin Rawat had taken over the reins of the Indian Army from General Dalbir Singh Suhag on December 17, 2016, as the 27th Chief of Army Staff (COAS).
An alumnus of the National Defence Academy (NDA) and the Indian Military Academy (IMA), Rawat was commissioned into the Indian Army in December 1978 in the same unit as his father, the fifth battalion of 11 Gorkha Rifles.
During his four decades in service, Rawat has 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.
He has also been part of the United Nations Peacekeeping Force and has commanded a multinational brigade in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Rawat became the Vice-Chief of Army Staff before becoming the fourth officer from the Gorkha Brigade to become the COAS.
Reducing militancy in northeast
He was instrumental in reducing the militancy in the Northeast, with one of the highlights of his career being the 2015 cross-border operation into Myanmar in which the Indian Army successfully responded to an ambush by NSCN-K militants. The mission was conducted from the operation command of Dimapur-based III Corps under Rawat's supervision.
Role in surgical strikes
He was also part of the planning for the 2016 surgical strikes, in which the Indian Army went across the Line of Control into Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. Rawat, it was reported, was monitoring the developments from South Block in New Delhi.
Awards and Honours
General Bipin Rawat was awarded the 'Doctorate of Philosophy' (Ph.D) for his research on 'Military Media Strategic Studies' by the Chaudhary Charan Singh University, Meerut.
For the distinguished service rendered and valour displayed over the span of over 42 years of his entire service career, General Bipin Rawat was conferred with several Presidential Awards which include the PVSM, UYSM, AVSM, YSM, SM and the VSM.
Besides these, he has been awarded the Chief of Army Staff Commendation on two occasions as also the Army Commander's Commendation. While serving with the UN in Congo, he was twice awarded the Force Commander's Commendation.
Which major operations did General Bipin Rawat lead?
Under the leadership of Rawat, the Indian Army has taken some of the most stringent steps against Pakistan. It was under his tenure that the army provided stronger defences along the border with Pakistan, when the Indian Air Force carried out the Balakot strikes in February 2019.
Incidentally, he has also ensured strong retaliation to unprovoked ceasefire violations by the Pakistan Army along the Line of Control.
Besides Pakistan, he has also managed military affairs along the border with China, following the Doklam standoff that went on for over two months. He has also facilitated better relations between the armies of India and China through regular border meetings, interactions and joint exercises. As an Army Chief, General Rawat stood up to Chinese PLA at Doklam plateau on India-Bhutan-China tri-junction for 73 days in 2017.
He was instrumental in reducing the militancy in the Northeast, with one of the highlights of his career being the 2015 cross-border operation into Myanmar in which the Indian Army successfully responded to an ambush by NSCN-K militants. The mission was conducted from the operation command of Dimapur-based III Corps under Rawat's supervision. He was also part of the planning for the 2016 surgical strikes, in which the Indian Army went across the Line of Control into Pakistan-occupied Kashmir. Rawat, it was reported, was monitoring the developments from South Block in New Delhi.
June 2015: The surgical strike inside Myanmar was carried out by a crack team of about 70 commandos of the Indian Army who finished the operation within 40 minutes, leaving 38 Naga insurgents dead and seven injured. The decision of “hot pursuit” was taken hours after the Naga militants killed 18 soldiers in an ambush in Chandel area of Manipur on June 4 and clearance was obtained from Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the night of June 7, soon after his return from Bangladesh, said sources privy to the details.
When Bipin Rawat took charge of the United Nations’ North Kivu Brigade in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2008, things weren’t going too well for the world’s costliest peacekeeping mission, known by its French acronym MONUC.
The locals were contemptuous of UN peacekeepers, questioning what difference they had made in their lives and accusing the mission of doing little to protect them. Angry crowds would often hurl stones at UN vehicles on the streets of Goma, the capital of North Kivu and where the Indian brigade is based.
General Rawat was a brigadier when he was sent to the Congo in August 2008 to command the Indian Army’s, then as now, largest deployment on foreign soil. He hit the ground running and quickly grasped the reason the peacekeepers were struggling to contain the crisis in the Congo, formerly known as Zaire.
Rawat reworked the velvet-glove strategy to an iron fist within a month of his arrival, frequently authorising the use of attack helicopters to strafe positions held by rebel groups responsible for civilian deaths, recruiting child soldiers and displacing millions of people.
As the Congo’s internal conflict raged, he ordered the deployment of infantry combat vehicles rigged with machine guns and cannons to crush rebels and enforce peace in flashpoints such as Tonga, Kanyabayonga, Rutshuru and Bunagana.
The general is credited with providing dynamic leadership under the UN banner. The Indian peacekeepers switched their approach from a velvet glove to an iron fist under his leadership.
Rawat's other achievements as Army Chief:
Rawat has also played a key role in shaping the army. He was fundamental in restructuring the army to cut administrative flab, reduce duplicity and increase combat potential.
He has also ensured that the man behind the machine remains important, arming them with new assault rifles procured from the US. He has also been critical in the modernisation of the army.
However, his tenure has also been marred with controversies. Under his tenure, the army accepted the government’s decision to tax disability pension, generating anger among disabled veterans. It was under him that cantonment roads were opened to civilians, raising questions on security by the military fraternity.