Gen. Bipin Rawat’s untimely demise is an extremely irreparable loss for the Army. Having seen him at close quarters during the Doklam crisis during my tenure in Kashmir, as well as the Military Secretary, he had the qualities of the best leader.
Decisive, courageous, brave, ability to take risks, and personally honest, to the end, extremely honest. And he believed in what he did. He was a soldier who breathes Army and lived Army. He was always there. The amount of confidence I had to take difficult decisions, both as the Director General Military Operations (DGMO) and as the 15 Corps Commander (Srinagar based) was because I was backed by a boss who would stand by me through all risks and difficult situations.
The fact that he was picked up at the first Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) was because he met all the requirements. He had the calibre, he had the vision, and he had a heart to be the first CDS. He believed in things, he believed in the whole Army, the whole armed forces going on together. And he worked for it.
General Bipin Rawat took over as the 27th Army Chief on December 31, 2016 and as the first CDS on January 1, 2020.
One of my personal recollections, even in Doklam when we had to decide and carry out the act, it just took him 10 minutes to decide. It was a very difficult decision for any Chief to take. The most courageous decision, which he took because he believed it.
My association is actually though I have known him as a young Lieutenant Colonel, when he had come after doing the Command and General Staff College, which is done by the topper of the batch. That is the first time I met him, I had come back from my staff college. And thereafter, at every rank, whenever I met him, it has been a learning because he was so dedicated to his profession. And it’s a grave personal loss for me.
General Bipin Rawat was commissioned in the Fifth Battalion of the Eleven Gorkha Rifles in December 1978, from the Indian Military Academy, Dehradun, where he was awarded the ‘Sword of Honour’. I got commissioned into the Army in December 1981. And the best part is, I’ve known his younger brother, who was my junior in NDA. Both the brothers never threw weight that they were a General’s sons. In his junior rank, one didn’t even know that his father was an officer.
I should share that when I was DGMO, it was not only Doklam but many decisions at the operational level there were clear cut decisions, there was no risk avoidance. If there was anything which had to be done, there was never any avoidance of not giving an order and a clear cut one.
Whenever there is any new creation like the CDS, the three services which have been independent, which now have to integrate together. There has to be a bond like in a family, a little bit of each things independently for their service. He was the first man who had to think purple (mixture of three Service colours). And while thinking purple, may be he may have stepped on some toes, but it was not the intention of favouring one for the other. It was to meet that aim, of jointness which was a necessity for the Indian armed forces. If the armed forces have to move ahead as per the needs of the times, we have to go together, we have to go purple. And he was very clear about that. The Army, Navy, Air Force have to go jointly in all things, the nation needs it from us, the new warfighting needed it from us. And he was very clear about.
I have looked at him from my younger days. So I didn’t know him personally, for many years, it was only professionally. In the Army, you are a few years senior you knew them. And you will keep meeting them in the Army. I’ve seen him as the 5 Sector Commander in the valley (Kashmir) and the way he handled it. He had a method of doing things. Also understanding what a soldier wanted. He taught us many things like reaching out to the last man and reaching down to the last point. And honesty, he took it as a personal thing, personal honesty and integrity.
We lost an outstanding officer. There are very few bosses whom you look up to. He would listen to your advise even if it was contrast to his opinion. He had listened to whatever I said as DGMO. Even as CDS he went down to the ground and the amount he would travel even as CDS. It is an excellent quality, which is why it is so important even when one reaches higher rank.
( The author served with General Bipin Rawat when the latter was the Army chief )