Belonging to a family of military officers and one of the most celebrated soldiers of his time, General Bipin Rawat took over as the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) on January 1, 2020 – the first to occupy the post that made him the country’s foremost military officer.
As CDS, he ranked above the other four-star military officers heading the Navy, Air Force and Army, headed the Department of Military Affairs in the Defence Ministry, carving out responsibilities that were with the Department of Defence till then, and was the Principal Military Advisor to the Defence Minister on all matters related to the forces.
Rawat died in a helicopter crash near Conoor on Wednesday afternoon, along with his wife Madhulika Rawat, and officers in his staff, including Brig L S Lidder, his senior-most staff officer.
As the Army’s 27th Chief, from December 31, 2016, to December 31, 2019, Rawat was known as a jovial, straight-talking officer who initiated studies to re-organise the Army and make it a leaner force, to make it fit for wars of the future. Another reform initiated by him was creation of Integrated Battle Groups, which are like bigger brigades, agile and self-sufficient in combat formations.
Rawat was commissioned in the Fifth Battalion of the Eleven Gorkha Rifles in December 1978, after graduating from the IMA with a Sword of Honour, as the head of his batch. This was the Battalion commanded by his father Lt Gen Laxman Singh Rawat, who retired as the Deputy Chief of Army. His grandfather was also in the Army.
An alumnus of St Edward’s School, Shimla, and the National Defence Academy, Rawat studied at the Defence Services Staff College, Wellington; and Higher Command, National Defence College. He also attended the Command and General Staff Course at Fort Leavenworth in the United States.
During his 41 years in the Army, Rawat went on to command 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 North East. He headed the Western Command as a Lt General and was later appointed the Vice Army Chief.
As a senior officer, he commanded a Multinational Brigade in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
He was a recipient of the Uttam Yudh Seva Medal, Ati Vishist Seva Medal, Yush Seva Medal, Seva Medal, VSM, Chief of Army Staff Commendation on two occasions and the Army Commander’s Commendation.
As CDS, his primary roles were to “ensure optimum utilisation of allocated budget, usher in more synergy in procurement, training and operations of the services through joint planning and integration” and “facilitate indigenisation of weapons and equipment to the maximum extent possible while formulating the overall defence acquisition plan for the three services”.