This post has been updated.
India’s chief of defence staff (CDS) General Bipin Rawat died in a chopper crash today (Dec. 8).
The 63-year old General Rawat and others were travelling in an Indian Air Force (IAF) helicopter when it crashed in the state of Tamil Nadu in southern India.
The Mi-17V5 chopper crashed shortly after it took off this morning from an Air Force base near Tamil Nadu’s Coimbatore, reports said. CDS Rawat was travelling to Wellington Staff College for a lecture. An inquiry has been ordered to “ascertain the cause of the accident.”
The Mi-series of choppers are used in high-altitude operations by IAF and are also responsible for ferrying VIPs, including the prime minister.
General Rawat was appointed India’s first tri-service chief in 2019. His main aim is to synergise the Indian Army, Indian Navy, and the Indian Air Force. He was also responsible for advising the Indian government on issues concerning the military.
General Rawat was a military veteran who has served in some of the most difficult terrains of India, including the northern and eastern commands. He has also been part of the UN’s Peacekeeping Force and, in 2008, commanded a multinational brigade in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
General Rawat was also the 26th chief of the Army staff, who has served in the office from December 2016 till December 2019 before taking over as CDS.
However, his tenure has witnessed a few controversies, too. Under him, the army accepted the Narendra Modi government’s decision to tax disability pension. The order sparked unrest among specially-abled military veterans across the country.
In July this year, he ruffled the air force’s feathers by labelling it merely a “support arm” of the army.
General Rawat was part of the planning for the 2016 surgical strikes by India at terrorist launchpads in Pakistan. The 2019 air force strike at similar facilities in Pakistan’s Balakot, too, were carried out during his tenure.
He is often credited with curbing militancy in India’s turbulent northeast.