India’s first Chief of Defence Staff and military chief General Bipin Rawat has died in a helicopter crash in Tamil Nadu (South India).
General Bipin Rawat, his wife Madhulika Rawat and 11 others died in the crash, the air force said, tweeting that the helicopter “met with a tragic accident”.
One Air Force Group Captain Varun Singh is the sole survivor of the crash and is being treated in a military hospital.
Indian national broadcaster Prasar Bharati announced the Mi-17V5 helicopter was on its way from an air force base to the army defence services college crashing near the hill station Coonoor, in Tamil Nadu.
An IAF Mi-17V5 helicopter, with CDS Gen Bipin Rawat on board, met with an accident today near Coonoor, Tamil Nadu.
An Inquiry has been ordered to ascertain the cause of the accident.
— Indian Air Force (@IAF_MCC) December 8, 2021
As of now, the reason for the crash as described by the air force is an “unfortunate accident” although there are comments on social media about the disgruntled South Indians not being happy and calls for a thorough investigation into the accident.
Indian Television channels showed visuals of the crash site showing thick plumes of smoke billowing from the crash debris while local residents were attempting to put out the fire and remove bodies from the wreckage.
An inquiry has been ordered into the accident.
India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi said he was deeply saddened by General Rawat’s death.
“A true patriot, he greatly contributed to modernising our armed forces and security apparatus,” he said.
Australia’s Opposition the Labor party has sent their ‘deepest condolences’ on the untimely demise of General Rawat.
जय हिन्द 🇮🇳 pic.twitter.com/MmuKhb25N0
— Major Surendra Poonia (@MajorPoonia) December 8, 2021
In a statement released by Australia’s Shadow Minister for Defence Brendan O’Connor said:
“Our thoughts are with the people of India today after the tragic death of Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) Gen Bipin Rawat and 12 others in a helicopter crash.
Gen Rawat held a long and significant military career and was the first Chief of Defence Staff of the Indian Armed Forces.
His wife Madhulika Rawat, a prominent social worker and vocal advocate for the well-being of the wives and children of Army personnel, also died in the crash.
I note the strong ties between our two countries and our partnership through the recently reinvigorated Quad.
Labor sends our deepest condolences.”
General Bipin Rawat was 63. He was the most senior official in the Indian military. His position as Chief of Defence Staff, was created by the Modi government in 2019.
He was also an adviser to the defence ministry and handled coordination and integration of the combat capabilities of the armed forces.
General Rawat’s untimely demise is a big loss to India, at a time when it is struggling with many diverse issues with serious security implications, particularly in West Bengal, Maharashtra, Punjab and Tamil Nadu.