Editorial: Nation bids CDS General Bipin Rawat a tearful farewell

The funeral of Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat, who was cremated along with his wife Madhulika, to the tune of The Last Post and before hundreds of servicemen, has struck a deep chord in the country. There was not a dry eye as the nation grieved over the tragic death of the couple and eleven others in a chopper crash in Tamil Nadu’s Western Ghats.
Editorial: Nation bids CDS General Bipin Rawat a tearful farewell
CDS Bipin Rawat (File Photo)

New Delhi

General Rawat was India’s first Chief of Defence Staff, a post he was appointed to in 2019. He was only the third officer from the Gorkha brigade to become Chief of Army Staff. But his contributions and the respect that he earned went well beyond the positions he held.
General Rawat came from an illustrious family that has been connected to the Indian Army for a long time —his father was a Lieutenant General too. Rawat was a thinking man’s General, possessed with a sharp intellect on military matters, one that led him to conduct research in the area and earn a doctorate. His record as an officer reflects his varied talents, a career made up of postings abroad and difficult assignments in Jammu & Kashmir.
As India mourns his death and that of the other Bravehearts on that ill-fated helicopter, it is important to identify – and quickly – the cause for the crash. The fact that it took place at a time when the weather was not bad – or at least not reported to be unsafe for flying – makes it all the more important to do so.
To determine whether the accident was caused by mechanical failure, pilot error, or poor maintenance is critical because no nation can afford to have such devastating military losses. This is an issue that has a bearing on national security and one that must be addressed squarely after the cause of the crash is determined.
The Russian-built Mi-17 V5, after all, is a new variant, one that is used by the VVIP squadron that flies the Prime Minister and the President. The cost of not unearthing the truth and failing to learn the lessons quickly is much too great.
It is hoped that the recovered black box will clear up the mystery. Meanwhile, it is important not to engage in wild conspiracy theories. There is absolutely no evidence of a foreign hand of foul play, but investigators will be surely looking into the wreckage for the presence of explosive compounds to rule this out.
India could do well to appoint a new CDS who shares some of General Rawat’s attributes, particularly his scholarly knowledge, his strong sense of resilience, his fierce patriotism, and pugnacity. The respect he earned within the tri-services is a result of the fact that he always stood behind his men. We seek neither gratitude nor applause, he once said.
As the nation bid farewell to him, it felt natural to give him both, and in very good measure.

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