Indian Air Force (IAF) confirmed that India's Chief of Defence Staff Gen Bipin Rawat and 12 other people died in a helicopter crash on Wednesday (December 8). Meanwhile, one survivor is being treated for his injuries.
The accident happened when an IAF helicopter Mi-17V5, carrying the defence chief crashed in southern India — near the town of Coonoor in Tamil Nadu. The helicopter was on its way from Sulur in Coimbatore to the Defence Services Staff College in Wellington.
Gen Bipin Rawat and Madhulika Rawat
Gen Bipin Rawat's wife Madhulika Rawat was among the people on board the IAF helicopter that crashed in Tamil Nadu. "With deep regret, it has now been ascertained that Gen Bipin Rawat, Mrs Madhulika Rawat and 11 other persons on board have died in the unfortunate accident," IAF tweeted.
Madhulika Rawat was the President of AWWA (Army Wives Welfare Association) and worked for the welfare of wives, children and dependents of Army personnel.
India's first chief of defence staff
Gen Bipin Rawat was India's first chief of defence staff. It is a position that the Indian government established in 2019. He was credited with reducing insurgency on India's northeastern frontier.
Gen Bipin Rawat also supervised a cross-border counter-insurgency operation in neighbouring Myanmar.
Joined the Army in 1978
Gen Bipin Rawat was born in the Pauri district in the northern state of Uttarakhand. He belonged to a military family with several generations having served in the Indian armed forces.
He was the alumnus of the National Defence Academy (NDA), Khadakwasla, and the Indian Military Academy, Dehradun, where he was awarded the 'Sword of Honour'. He also attended the Command and General Staff Course at Fort Leavenworth, USA.
In December 1978, Rawat was commissioned into the Indian Army in the same unit as his father, the fifth battalion of 11 Gorkha Rifles.
Honours and decorations
He had four decades of service behind him, having commanded forces in Kashmir and along the Line of Actual Control bordering China.
General Rawat was decorated with the Param Vishisht Seva Medal (PVSM), Uttam Yudh Seva Medal, Ati Vishisht Seva Medal (AVSM), Vishisht Seva Medal, Yudh Seva Medal, and Sena Medal.
Gen Bipin Rawat authored numerous articles on national security and leadership, which have been published in various journals and publications. He was also awarded M Phil in Defence Studies from Madras University.
He had a Diploma in Management and another Diploma in Computer Studies. He completed his research on military media strategic studies and was awarded Doctorate of Philosophy (PhD) from Chaudhary Charan Singh University, Meerut in 2011.
'Irreparable loss to our Armed Forces'
Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh paid heartfelt condolences and said Gen Bipin Rawat's untimely death is an irreparable loss to our Armed Forces and the country.
"Deeply anguished by the sudden demise of Chief of Defence Staff Gen Bipin Rawat, his wife and 11 other Armed Forces personnel in an extremely unfortunate helicopter accident today in Tamil Nadu. His untimely death is an irreparable loss to our Armed Forces and the country," the defence minister wrote.