The Indian Chief of Defence Staff, Gen Bipin Rawat, was killed in a helicopter crash along with his wife and 11 others raising questions over the future of military changes he was leading.Rawat was India’s first chief of defence staff, a position that the government established in 2019. The position was set up with the aim of integrating India’s three military services – the Army, the Navy and the Air Force. (Continued on Page 14)
Gen Bipin Rawat, the 63-year-old was, travelling with his wife and other senior officers in the Russian-made Mi-17 helicopter, which crashed near its destination in southern Tamil Nadu state.
Local television footage showed rescuers and army personnel carrying bodies up steep slopes from the mangled wreckage. Only one of the 14 people on board survived and was in hospital with injuries.
“With deep regret, it has now been ascertained that Gen Bipin Rawat, (his wife) Mrs Madhulika Rawat and 11 other persons on board have died,” the Air Force said in a statement.
Modi said Rawat was an outstanding soldier and “true patriot” who had helped modernise the country’s armed forces.
“His passing away has saddened me deeply,” the prime minister tweeted. “India will never forget his exceptional service.”
Modi said he was deeply saddened by Rawat’s death. “A true patriot, he greatly contributed to modernising our armed forces and security apparatus,” the prime minister said.
In a tweet, Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh called Rawat’s death “an irreparable loss to our armed forces and the country.”
An infantryman with over four decades of military service, Rawat served along India’s border with China, the disputed Kashmir region and on a United Nations mission in Africa, before taking charge of the Indian army in late 2016.
Personalities across the world mourned the tragic death of Rawat. Hailing General Bipin Rawat’s role in the transformation of India’s military, US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin said that he had left an ” indelible mark” on defence ties between the two countries.”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,” Austin said in a condolence message.
Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama on Thursday mourned the demise of Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat and others travelling with him in a fatal helicopter crash.
“I pray for the General and his companions and offer my heartfelt condolences to the members of the families of all those who perished in this unfortunate accident.
“I salute General Rawat’s long-standing contribution in the service of the nation,” the spiritual leader said in a statement.
Rawat was chief of the 1.3 million-strong army from 2017 to 2019 before his elevation to defence services chief, which analysts said was to improve coordination between the army, navy and air force. During his 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.
India’s air force said an inquiry was under way into carsh incident.