A tragic loss: On the death of Gen Bipin Rawat

India has lost a capable and experienced military leader in the tragic death of the country’s first Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) , General Bipin Rawat, in a helicopter crash near Coonoor in the Nilgiris on Wednesday. His wife, Madhulika, and 11 others also perished when the Indian Air Force’s Mi-17V5 helicopter came down in a heavily wooded area. Defence Minister Rajnath Singh has announced in Parliament that a tri-service inquiry, headed by Air Marshal Manvendra Singh , Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Training Command, of the IAF, will take place into the incident. The IAF chief, Air Chief Marshal V.R. Chaudhari, has already visited the crash site; the cockpit voice and flight data recorders have been recovered, which would give investigators insights into how the crash occurred. It is imperative that the inquiry be done both thoroughly and speedily. Without speculating on the cause, it needs to be stressed that speedy course corrections in training or hardware are imperative given that these Mi-17VF choppers are being used to ferry top military leaders across the length and breadth of the country.

Gen. Rawat had not even completed two years as CDS when the Coonoor tragedy happened. After completing his tenure as Army Chief on December 31, 2019 , he slipped into his new role as CDS the very next day. Many of his plans to give India genuine tri-service operational capabilities are still to be realised. In such a situation, the Government should not lose time in appointing his successor to ensure that the plans on the drawing board do not suffer. An aggressive China and a still belligerent Pakistan define India’s security challenges. The situation along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) continues to be tense with Indian and Chinese troops staring down each other. Gen. Rawat, known to have been proximate to the ruling establishment, had never minced words while speaking about the challenges facing the country and had waded into political controversies. Though the concept of having a CDS was recommended by a Group of Ministers in 2000 after the Kargil war, it took another 20 years for one to be appointed. The CDS, who functions as Principal Military Adviser to the Defence Minister, is expected to work in tandem with the three service chiefs who continue to operate in their respective domains — a role and function that is still in the making. To ensure that the new CDS and the service chiefs function as a team, the Government would do well to keep in mind the principle of seniority while choosing Gen. Rawat’s successor.

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Printable version | May 13, 2022 8:07:36 am | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/a-tragic-loss-on-the-death-of-gen-bipin-rawat/article37918122.ece