• Meghna Singh

Gen. Bipin Rawat

A life of greatness, a loss even greater

On the afternoon of 8th December 2021, in what can be termed as an irreparable loss to the country, General Bipin Rawat, the first Chief of Defense Staff of the Armed Forces, passed away when a chopper carrying him, his wife and other officers crashed near Coonoor in the Nilgiris district of Tamil Nadu, killing 13 of the 14 passengers on board.

As news spread that the IAF Mi-17V5 had crashed, leaving no survivors; tributes started pouring in for the decorated General along with speculations regarding the question of who would succeed him, owing to the huge vacuum his sudden demise has left in the Forces, a vacuum that is bound to have a cascading effect.


Career

General Bipin Rawat hailed from the district of Pauri, Himachal Pradesh from a family with a background in the Services.


During the course of an illustrious career spanning over 4 decades, he took part in several important operations; and came to be known for having a knack for counter-insurgency operations as well as handling militancy operations.


He had the experience of serving in several parts of the country- right from Jammu Kashmir to Arunachal Pradesh and was also a part of the UN Peacekeeping forces, thus strengthening his case for being the first CDS of the country owing to the diversity that could be attributed to him.


On 5th December 1978, he was commissioned with the 5th Battalion of the 11th Gorkha Rifles, serving for 10 years and commanding various positions during the course of the same.


After being promoted to the rank of Major General in 2011, he took over the 19th Infantry Division in Uri. Thereafter his descent to the top of the brass was rapid with his appointment as Chief of Army Staff coming just 5 years later in 2016. His overseeing of the Balakot airstrikes and the Dokalam standoff were achievements that worked in his favour.


Chief of Defence Staff

In August 2019, Prime Minister Modi announced the creation of the post of Chief of Defense Staff; a role that would comprise of being the Chief Military Adviser to the Defense Ministry as well as being the collective head of the Tri-Services. The corresponding Chief could have been from any of the three forces as there were no specific criteria other than the need to be a commanding officer.


However, General Rawat had already superseded two officers while being appointed the Army Chief, hence his elevation to the position of CDS in December 2019 immediately after his retirement came as no surprise.


Work as CDS

The major responsibilities inclusive of this role for Rawat encompassed acting as principal advisor to the defence minister in all matters pertaining to the tri-services; functioning as coordinator and ensuring smooth management of the three wings of the Forces and assuming the role of Secretary in the Department of Military Affairs.


One of the ambitious projects the General was currently undertaking is the theaterisation of our Armed Forces, a precarious task now left unfinished. The above is in keeping with his attempts at modernization of the Forces, a reform necessary for the future of the military.


What does the future hold?

The untimely demise of the general has left the future of the position hanging in balance, leaving the government scrambling over the decision of whom to appoint as the next CDS.


The fact that there was a difference of opinions among the three Chiefs regarding the theaterisation, which led to its postponement is another aspect that needed to be looked after during the process of appointment. This coupled with the ever-increasing military standoffs with China has led to speculations that the next Chief could also be from the Army rather than the Air or Naval Forces, with Naravane emerging as the top choice.


Conclusion

The accident not only led to shock waves across the nation but has also raised questions regarding the defence equipment currently in use, as the instances of aircraft crashing have increased over the past few years. The government has announced the setting up of a committee to conclude the causes of the accident; with the details still hazy. The retrieval of the Black Box from the chopper increases hopes of an explanation but it can only help us reach clarity rather than filling the huge void left behind by the passing away of so many stalwarts.

~ Meghna Singh


Sources:

Jagran Josh

NDTV

BBC INDIA

DAINIK JAGRAN