aljazeera.com
News|Military
India defence boss, wife and 11 others killed in helicopter crash
Military helicopter crashes in Tamil Nadu state, killing at least 13 people including defence chief General Bipin Rawat.
Rawat, 63, was India's first chief of defence staff, a position the Indian government established in 2019 and which he assumed last year [File: Manish Swarup/AP Photo]
8 Dec 2021
Updated: 8 Dec 202104:25 PM (GMT)
India’s defence chief General Bipin Rawat, his wife, and 11 other people have been killed after a military helicopter they were travelling in crashed in the southern state of Tamil Nadu, the Indian Air Force (IAF) has said.
The IAF said in a Twitter post the “tragic accident” took place near the town of Coonoor at noon (06:30 GMT) on Wednesday.
The Russian-made Mi-17V5 helicopter was on its way from an air force base to the Defence Services Staff College when it crashed. The reason for the crash was not immediately known and authorities said they have opened an investigation.
The air force said one officer, Group Captain Varun Singh, survived and is being treated in a military hospital.
Reporting from New Delhi, Al Jazeera’s Elizabeth Puranam said the trip to the Defence Services Staff College “was not supposed to be a very long ride but this is a very mountainous region, with a lot of forests”.
Videos broadcast on Indian news channels showed the helicopter in flames in a densely forested area near the college as locals tried to put out the fire and remove bodies from the wreckage.
India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that Rawat was an “outstanding soldier” and a “true patriot” who greatly contributed to modernising the country’s armed forces and security apparatus.
“His insights and perspectives on strategic matters were exceptional. His passing away has saddened me deeply,” Modi said.
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said Rawat “served the country with exceptional courage and diligence”.
Archrival Pakistan’s army chief, General Qamar Javed Bajwa, expressed his condolences on the “tragic death” of Rawat and his wife, its government said in a tweet.
General Bipin Rawat is former Indian army chief and the first chief of defence staff [File: Sajjad Hussain/AFP]
Rawat, 63, was India’s first chief of defence staff, a position the Indian government established in 2019 and which he assumed last year after retiring as army chief.
He was considered close to Prime Minister Modi and was an adviser to the Ministry of Defence.
His primary task was to overhaul the military, which has struggled to modernise and improve coordination among the army, navy and air force.
Defence analyst Harsha Kakar, who has also served as a major general in the Indian army, told Al Jazeera that Rawat’s death was “a setback … in terms of the modernisation of the forces”.
Delhi-based defence analyst and author Pravin Sawhney told Al Jazeera that General Rawat’s military initiatives would now be “stalled”.
“Whether they are reviewed or what happens to them is what needs to be seen,” said Sawhney.
Military career
The defence chief hailed from a military family, with several generations serving in the Indian armed forces.
The general, who had four decades of service behind him, has commanded forces in Indian-administered Kashmir and along the Line of Actual Control bordering China.
In 2015, Rawat oversaw Indian “surgical strikes” into neighbouring Myanmar, when para-commandos entered the country to attack Naga rebels who had ambushed and killed Indian troops.
In 2017, he awarded a gallantry medal to an army officer who had tied a civilian to the front of his vehicle in Kashmir, where rebels are fighting Indian rule. The incident sparked controversy within India and outside, with rights groups saying the officer used the man as a human shield against stone-throwing protesters.
Rawat said the officer’s actions were within the rules because the army was facing a “dirty war” in the disputed region and had to fight using “innovative” ways.
Last month, he triggered another controversy by saying on television that Kashmir residents are offering to “lynch terrorists themselves” and that it was a “very positive sign”. Lynchings are illegal under Indian law. He did not provide any evidence to support his statement.
Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan, and both claim the entire Himalayan territory.
Rawat earlier survived a helicopter crash in 2015 in the northeast state of Nagaland.
The type of military transport helicopter that crashed on Wednesday, Mi-17V5, is widely used in India by the army and ministers when visiting defence locations.
In 2017, an Mi-17V5 helicopter crashed in the northeastern state of Arunachal Pradesh, killing seven military personnel.
Bilal Kuchay contributed reporting from New Delhi, India.
SOURCE: AL JAZEERA AND NEWS AGENCIES
RELATED
In­dia top gen­er­al on Chi­na: ‘Larg­er con­flict can’t be dis­count­ed’
Chief of De­fence Staff Bipin Rawat says sit­u­a­tion tense at the de fac­to bor­der be­tween the two na­tions in the Hi­malayas.
6 Nov 2020
Fear in Kash­mir as top gen­er­al talks of ‘de­rad­i­cal­i­sa­tion’ camps
In­di­an gen­er­al speaks of ‘rad­i­cal­i­sa­tion’ of Kash­miri youth, draw­ing com­par­i­son with in­tern­ment of Uighurs in Chi­na.
24 Jan 2020
In­dia, Chi­na army talks to defuse bor­der ten­sions fail
Both na­tions will keep troops in for­ward ar­eas for a sec­ond freez­ing win­ter as 17-month stand­off con­tin­ues.
11 Oct 2021
MORE FROM NEWS
US rejects calls to immediately sanction Russia over Ukraine
Armenian president resigns over lack of influence
Is the bubble about to burst for Bitcoin?
Taiwan reports new large-scale Chinese air force incursion
MOST READ
Airbus cancels $6bn contract with Qatar Airways after paint fight
Omicron ‘sub-variant’ throws up new virus questions
The day the world went dark: Survivor recalls disaster in Tonga
Pfizer, Moderna boosters up to 90% effective against Omicron: CDC
Follow Al Jazeera English:
© 2022 Al Jazeera Media Network
 
You rely on Al Jazeera for truth and transparency
We understand that your online privacy is very important and consenting to our collection of some personal information takes great trust. We ask for this consent because it allows Al Jazeera to provide an experience that truly gives a voice to the voiceless. You have the option to decline the cookies we automatically place on your browser but allowing Al Jazeera and our trusted partners to use cookies or similar technologies helps us improve our content and offerings to you. You can change your privacy preferences at any time by selecting ‘Cookie preferences’ at the bottom of your screen.To learn more, please view our Cookie Policy.