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General Bipin Rawat, India’s first CDS, was on a mission to modernise the military. The nation will miss him

Reforming a military is no easy task, but in the one year that remained of his tenure, he was determined to push them through.

 

In the untimely death of General Bipin Rawat in a helicopter crash in Coonoor, Tamil Nadu, India has lost a fine soldier who rose to become the country’s most senior general as its first Chief of Defence Staff. All but one of the 14 people on board were killed in the crash of the Mi-17V5 transporter, which was ferrying them from Sulur air base to the Staff College at Wellington. The Air Force has ordered an enquiry to ascertain the cause of the accident in which General Rawat’s wife, two of the three IAF pilots, his military adviser, staff officer, and five other soldiers who were members of his staff were among the killed. Rawat, who was Army chief until December 2019, when he was elevated to the newly created office of CDS, was a vastly experienced officer, having served in both the Northern and Eastern commands. He also headed the Southern command. He was involved in counter-insurgency operations in both Jammu and Kashmir and the Northeast, and his battalion was among those deployed along the Line of Actual Control in Arunachal Pradesh during the 1987 clash with the People’s Liberation Army in Sumdorong Chu.

Rawat’s tenure as Army chief coincided with India’s political leadership adopting a more muscular policy against Pakistan. The stand-off with China at Doklam on the LAC also took place under his watch. At the time he was among the first to speak openly about the possibility of India facing a “two-front war”. He courted controversy both as Army chief and as CDS when he waded into matters outside the remit of his office. His remarks against the protests over the citizenship law amendments, comparison of migration into Assam as an act of Bangladesh seeking lebensraum, his approval of lynching as an acceptable way of dealing with terrorists in J&K, description of the Air Force as a “support arm” of the Army were regrettable.

As CDS, it fell to Rawat to draw up plans for the modernisation of the military and make it an efficient fighting force, a responsibility he took up with much enthusiasm as it was a cause close to his heart. However, the Integrated Battle Commands into which he wanted to reorganise the Army did not materialise, mainly due to costs. The proposal to eliminate the rank of Brigadier too got a cool reception. In the last few months, he was preoccupied with the challenge of “theaterisation” or “jointness” of the armed forces, envisaging five “integrated theatre commands” that would combine the tri-services instead of each force having several regional commands. Reforming a military is no easy task, but in the one year that remained of his tenure, he was determined to push them through.

10 Dec 21/Friday                                                                              Source: indianexpress

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