Credited for bringing defence reforms, Gen Rawat leaves a rich legacy."India will never forget his exceptional service", says PM Modi.
New Delhi: India lost its first Chief of Defence Staff, Gen Bipin Rawat, in a ghastly chopper crash in Tamil Nadu.
"With deep regret, it has now been ascertained that Gen Bipin Rawat, Mrs Madhulika Rawat and 11 other persons on board have died in the unfortunate accident," tweeted IAF.
"Gen Bipin Rawat, Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) was on a visit to Defence Services Staff College, Wellington (Nilgiri Hills) to address the faculty and student officers of the Staff Course today," the IAF added.
Gen Rawat had taken off from Sulur Airbase for Wellington and was accompanied by his wife Madhulika Rawat, his DA Brigadier LS Lidder, SO Lieutenant Colonel Harjinder Singh, among other defence officials.
"Around noon today, an IAF Mi 17 V5 helicopter with a crew of 4 members carrying the CDS and 9 other passengers met with a tragic accident near Coonoor, TN," the Indian Air Force said in a tweet.
Group Captain Varun Singh, SC, Directing Staff at DSSC, the sole survivor of the crash, is undergoing treatment for his injuries at Military Hospital in Wellington.
"I am deeply anguished by the helicopter crash in Tamil Nadu in which we have lost Gen Bipin Rawat, his wife and other personnel of the Armed Forces," tweeted a pensive Prime Minister who had actually virtually handpicked the brilliant military officer to make him first the army chief and then the CDS from January 2020.
"They (deceased men) served India with utmost diligence. My thoughts are with the bereaved families," the Prime Minister wrote.
"Gen Bipin Rawat was an outstanding soldier. A true patriot, he greatly contributed to modernising our armed forces and security apparatus. His insights and perspectives on strategic matters were exceptional.," he said.
The Prime Minister also said – "His passing away has saddened me deeply. Om Shanti."
In another message, Mr Modi said, "India will never forget his exceptional service."
"As India's first CDS, Gen Rawat worked on diverse aspects relating to our armed forces including defence reforms. He brought with him a rich experience of serving in the Army".
"Deeply anguished by the sudden demise of Chief of Defence Staff Gen Bipin Rawat, his wife and 11 other Armed Forces personnel in an extremely unfortunate helicopter accident today in Tamil Nadu. His untimely death is an irreparable loss to our Armed Forces and the country," Defence Minister Rajnath Singh tweeted.
"General Rawat had served the country with exceptional courage and diligence. As the first Chief of Defence Staff he had prepared plans for jointness of our Armed Forces," Singh added.
Altogether, there have been 13 personnel died in the ill-fated military chopper IAF Mi-17V5 helicopter while one is receiving treatment.
Earlier in the day, as the news of the crash went viral on social media and television channels, the Indian Air Force said in a tweet – "An Inquiry has been ordered to ascertain the cause of the accident".
President Ram Nath Kovind, in his message, wrote: "I am shocked and anguished over the untimely demise of Gen. Bipin Rawat and his wife, Madhulika ji."
"The nation has lost one of its bravest sons. His four decades of selfless service to the motherland was marked by exceptional gallantry and heroism. My condolences to his family," he wrote.
Earlier, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh personally monitored the situation following the crash of the IAF chopper.
He also briefed PM Modi about the crash. Defence Minister Rajnath Singh visited the residence of CDS Bipin Rawat in Delhi.
A brilliant military officer, India's first Chief of Defence Staff, Gen Bipin Rawat, also had the distinction of commanding a multinational brigade in a Chapter VII mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He was twice awarded the Force Commander's Commendation during the challenging mission. He was the third officer from the Gorkha Brigade to become the Chief of the Army Staff, after Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw and General Dalbir Singh Suhag.
Bipin Laxman Singh Rawat, decorated with the Param Vishisht Seva Medal (PVSM), was born on March 16, 1958. On December 30, 2019, the Modi government appointed him as the first CDS of India. He had assumed office from January 1, 2020.
Before taking over as the CDS, he served as 57th and last Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee. He was also the 26th Chief of Army Staff of the Indian Army.
Rawat was commissioned into the 5th battalion of 11 Gorkha Rifles on December 16, 1978, the same unit as his father.
Paradoxically, his admirers say, Gen Rawat had much experience in high-altitude warfare and spent ten years conducting counter-insurgency operations.
He commanded a company in Uri, Jammu and Kashmir and also commanded 5 Sector of Rashtriya Rifles in Sopore.
After promotion to Major General, Rawat took over as the General Officer Commanding 19th Infantry Division (Uri).
As a Lieutenant General, he commanded III Corps, headquartered in Dimapur in Nagaland, before taking over the Southern Army in Pune.
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On December 17, 2016, the Government of India had appointed Gen Rawat as the 27th Chief of the Army Staff, superseding two more senior Lieutenant Generals, Praveen Bakshi and P. M. Hariz.