Connecting Regions of Asia.

Rawat Was Inspirational , But Controversial


General Bipin Rawat , 63, who died  in a helicopter crash on Wednesday, was India’s first Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) after having served as Army chief , a position created two years ago to ensure “jointness” in military operations and warfighting.  

He took over as CDS on 30 December 2019 after a three year stint as the chief of the one million strong Indian Army.

Rawat’s father , Laxman Singh Rawat , was a lieutenant general in the Indian Army , his mother the daughter of a politician who was elected to the state assembly.

He hails from a Garhwarli Rajput family, one of India’s “martial races” who have regiments named after them. 

Rawat excelled during training and was awarded the “Sword of Honour” at the National Defence College and the Indian Military Academy.

Rawat is also a graduate of the Defence Services Staff College (DSSC), Wellington and excelled at the Higher Command Course at the United States Army Command and General Staff College at Fort LeavenworthKansas.  He holds a PhD in Military Studies from an Indian University.

Rawat was commissioned into the 5th battalion of 11 Gorkha Rifles on 16 December 1978, the same unit as his father. 

He commanded a company in UriJammu and Kashmir as a Major. As a Colonel, he commanded his battalion, the 5th battalion 11 Gorkha Rifles, in the Eastern sector along the Line of Actual Control at Kibithu at the peak of confrontation with the Chinese PLA during the  “Operation Chequerboard” and ” Operation Falcon” launched by then army chief Gen K Sundarji .

As Brigadier, he commanded 5 Sector of Rashtriya Rifles in Kashmir’s troubled Sopore region . He then commanded a multinational Brigade on an UN  mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) where he was twice awarded the Force Commander’s Commendation.

As Major General, Rawat commanded the 19th Infantry Division in Kashmir’s Uri facing Pakistani forces . As a Lieutenant General, he commanded 3rd Army Corps in Nagaland before taking charge of India’s southern army command, from where he was promoted vice chief of army staff. 

When in charge of the 3rd Corps, Rawat initiated India’s first officially declared surgical strikes on foreign territory when he send troops of a para commando battalion to attack Naga rebels inside Myanmar after they had ambushed Indian troops and killed eighteen of them.

He has been an instructor at Indian Military Academy, has served in several key staff appointments and  specialised in high altitude warfare and counter-insurgency operations.

In Dec 2016, he took over as the 27th Indian Army chief , superseding two more senior Lieutenant GeneralsPraveen Bakshi and P. M. Hariz.  

He is 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

On his visit to the United States in 2019, General Rawat was inducted to the United States Army Command and General Staff College International Hall of Fame.

Rawat’s legacy lies in his drive  to create integrated theatre commands for the Indian military, bringing together land army, air force and navy to form a combined fighting machine. The process of military integration has taken off under Rawat’s tewardship , though the theatre commands have not yet been formed. 

 Rawat sometimes made statements believed to be ‘political’ in nature, which colleagues felt was “crossing the line” and not in keeping with the apolitical tradition of the Indian military. 

He once described the rise of the Muslim dominated AIUDF party in Assam as a national security threat which led minority leaders to attack him as ‘parroting’ the hardline Hindu nationalism of India’s ruling BJP party. 

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