General Bipin Rawat, India’s first Chief of Defence
Staff, died in a helicopter crash in Tamil Nadu Wednesday along with his wife
Madhulika Rawat and 11 others. The helicopter took off from an Air Force base
in Sulur near Coimbatore for a Defence Services Staff College in Ooty and
crashed merely minutes after take-off.

A decorated soldier, 63-year-old Bipin Rawat was at
the centre of India’s defence policy, especially with regard to the joint
functioning of the three wings of the armed forces. He was appointed the first Chief
of Defence Staff on January 1, 2020. While the role of CDS was among the key
chairs he occupied during his career, he has continually played an important
role in India’s defence structures.

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Army man for four decades

General Bipin Rawat served the Indian Army for four
decades. A veteran in counter-insurgency operations and high-altitude warfare,
Rawat has served in the extremely difficult terrains of the Northern and
Eastern Commands. He commanded a company in Jammu and Kashmir’s Uri and also a
battalion of the 11 Gorkha Rifles.

Globetrotting peacekeeper

General Bipin Rawat was part of the United Nations
Peacekeeping Force and commanded a multinational brigade in the Democratic
Republic of Congo. During his service, General Rawat was awarded the Force
Commander’s Commendation twice.

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Honours galore

Decorated is an understatement for General Bipin Rawat.
Rawat has received the Param Vishisht Seva Medal, Uttam Yudh Seva Medal, Ati
Vishisht Seva Medal, Vishisht Seva Medal and Yudh Seva Medal and others.

Guardian of the northeast

Bipin Rawat, whose family has been involved with the armed
forces for generations, is credited with being instrumental in reducing
militancy in India’s northeast. The 2015 cross-border operation into Myanmar in
which the Indian Army responded successfully to an ambush by Naga militants was
conducted under Rawat’s supervision, according to an NDTV report.