I bow down in homage to one of the distinguished men in camouflage in recent years. While doing so, I remember some of his widely publicised and scrutinised quotes. He was a “soldier’s officer” to his force and men, to Prime Minister Narendra Modi – a strategic thinker perhaps a little different from being “a thinking strategist”.
While reacting to the death of Gen Bipin Rawat, in a ghastly chopper crash in Tami Nadu, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said: “India will never forget his exceptional service.”
“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 handpicked the brilliant military officer to make him first the Army Chief and then the CDS from January 2020.
“General 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 added.
Expressing his deep sorrow over the tragic death of the General in the chopper crash, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said: “As the first Chief of Defence Staff, he had prepared plans for jointness of our Armed Forces.”
In 2015, in the Northeast, he and his core team worked on finishing a highly successful response to an ambush by the NSCN-Khaplang militants beyond India’s borders. He was the right man at the right time of history with the right job.
General Bipin Rawat was part of the select few planning team that ensured a historical success in the form of post-Uri surgical strike in September 2016 across the LoC in Pakistan.
Gen Rawat played a key role in February 2019 after Pulwama terror attack. Previously in September 2016, Pakistan’s Uri misadventure was reciprocated by the Indian Army during the tenure of Rawat’s predecessor Gen Dalbir Singh Suhag. But General Rawat was instrumental in the planning.
After 43 years in service, Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat (63) was assigned the task of making the Indian military modern and capable of dealing with any emerging security challenges on the Northern or Western borders.
Sources say that Rawat’s experience in Kashmir as well in the Northeast as a Corps Commander at Rangapahar/Dimapur in Nagaland perhaps ‘overshadowed’ the claims of two senior officers. Of course, after taking over as the Army Chief, Gen Rawat said he had worked with both the officers and expected cooperation. In fact, he got good wishes from both too.
Soft-spoken but always assertive, the then Defence Minister late Manohar Parrikar had defended the Government’s decision to appoint him. The Minister had said: “If seniority was the only criterion, then a computer could have selected a service chief.”
“There would be no requirement of any Raksha Mantri; there would be no requirement of a Cabinet Committee on Appointment because then it is a computer job. Date of birth decides who becomes General,” Parrikar had said then.
Apart from Manohar Parrikar, who had a high opinion about Gen Rawat, another former Defence Minister, late Arun Jaitley, a man gifted with oratory and exceptionally good writing skills, once told Gen Rawat: “Don’t worry….When you run out of funds, call me”. Of course, Jaitley was then the country’s Finance Minister and held the Defence portfolio twice. Gen Rawat’s reform strategy for the Indian Army and two other forces was path-breaking and very candid regarding financial management for defence preparedness and soldiers’ welfare.
President Ram Nath Kovind, in his missive, wrote: “I am shocked and anguished over the untimely demise of Gen Bipin Rawat and his wife, Madhulikaji. 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.
Condolences pour in across the globe
The US Embassy on December 8, 2021, expressed condolences over the demise of Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) General Bipin Rawat, who died in a helicopter crash along with his wife and 11 others on board an Indian Air Force’s chopper in Tamil Nadu. “The U.S. Embassy extends its deepest condolences to the Rawat family and the families of those who perished in the tragic helicopter crash in Tamil Nadu,” US Embassy and Consulates in India said in a statement.
According to the statement, Rawat was a strong friend and partner of the United States, overseeing a major expansion of India’s defense cooperation with the US military.
“As India’s first Chief of Defence Staff, General Rawat spearheaded a historic period of transformation in the Indian military. He was a strong friend and partner of the United States, overseeing a major expansion of India’s defense cooperation with the U.S. military,” read the statement.
“In September, he spent five days traveling throughout the United States as part of a counterpart visit with General Mark Milley to discuss military developments and opportunities to enhance our cooperation with like-minded countries. His legacy will continue on,” the statement added.
The embassy also wished speedy recovery to Group Captain Varun Singh.
Expressing deep regret over the demise of CDS General Bipin Rawat, Russian Ambassador Nikolay Kudashev said Moscow has lost a “very close friend”.
Kudashev said Rawat played a big role in the promotion of India and Russia bilateral special and privileged strategic partnership. “With the deepest regret learnt about the saddening demise of Gen Bipin Rawat, Mrs Madhulika Rawat & 11 other officers in the helicopter crash today. India has lost its great patriot and dedicated hero,” Kudashev added.
Israel’s prime minister Naftali Bennett, describing General Bipin Rawat as a “true leader and true friend” of Israel, also expressed condolences to the Indian Government and people of India at the “tragic and shocking loss” of its first Chief of Defence Staff.
“On behalf of the people of Israel, I extend my deepest condolences to the people and government of India on the loss of Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat, his wife, and the 11 other military personnel lost in today’s tragic accident,” said Israel’s Foreign Minister Yair Lapid.
Those who track the country’s defence and security apparatus closely say – as the Army chief and later as the first CDS – Gen Rawat was a ‘perfect team man’ in the Team Modi – alongside the likes of Parrikar, Jaitley, Nirmala Sitharaman and of course Ajit Doval. Rajnath Singh and Amit Shah as the ‘need’ required from time to time.
General Rawat was twice awarded the Force Commander’s Commendation during a tough 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.
The top military brass and the highly decorated officer had defended Maj Leetul Gogoi over the “human shield” episode during a high-risk stone-pelting hit operation in Kashmir.
“It (human shield) is not a general norm. As a practice, it is not supported. But situations would dictate. Under the circumstances, he (Major Gogoi) took a decision independently. He can’t look back at that stage and wait for orders,” General Rawat had said.
“If somebody has any other ideas about how to tackle such a situation, he can pass it on to us. We will take a look at it,” he had said tongue-in-cheek.
Islamists rejoice after the unfortunate demise of CDS General Bipin Rawat
When the news of the unfortunate chopper crash on December 8, resulting in the death of Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat, his wife Madhulika Rawat, and 11 officials came, a wave of shock swept across the country. The nation joined hands to pray for their safety. A pall of gloom and despondency engulfed the nation.
The nation was in deep shock and anguish. But, the Islamists and their symphatisers were celebrating and rejoicing the unfortunate demise of the CDS General Bipin Rawat.
When the news came that there are a few survivors, the Islamists were wishing death for General Rawat. When the news of the unfortunate demise came in, the Islamists were expressing their joy.
The News Editor with the Congress mouthpiece National Herald, Ashlin Mathew, described death of brave son of India as a ‘Divine intervention’.
This is not new for the Islamists. When journalist Rohit Sardana succumbed to COVID-19 infection, they celebrated his demise.
Propagandist Ajai Shukla, who has served the Indian Army as a colonel and now masquerades as a journalist, posted a picture of a cake on Twitter after the Indian Air Force confirmed General Rawat’s demise.
Displaying crassness, The Print columnist Lt Gen H S Panag(R) declared CDS General Bipin Rawat dead long before the Indian Air Force confirmed the news. Later, he deleted that Tweet.
A twitter user Mustafa Riaz celebrated General Rawat’s demise by abusing him on social media. After cyber security’s intervention, he changed his username to Anshul Saxena on Twitter.
Mrs Neeta Chaudhari, President of Air Force Women Welfare Association, and all Sanginis expressed their deepest condolences on the untimely demise of Mrs Madhulika, Gen Rawat and 11 other service personnel. “In this hour, we stand behind the ladies and families who have lost their dear ones in this unfortunate crash,” said Mrs Neeta Chaudhari.General Rawat’s wife came from a princely family and was the second daughter of Mrigendra Singh. They belonged to the Riwa ancestral family. Madhulika’s father was a Congressman and represented the Sohagpur Assembly under Hoshangabad district of Madhya Pradesh twice in 1967 and 1972.
Like the military top brass, Gen Rawat had a good sense of humour. A tough and decisive officer known to be jovial with scribes, he would even joke about the media’s obsession with the China angle and craze for sound bytes. Also popularly known for donning the Gorkha hat, Gen Rawat often would say in his regiment that it is best that you think like a Gorkha.
Gen Rawat used to speak about the hat he had worn proudly for four decades. Thus, on becoming CDS, as he gave up the Army hat, once he told newspersons – “My head is feeling lighter.”
(With research inputs from Yatharth Sikka)