Kochi: Through the tragic and untimely death of the Chief of Defense Staff, Bipin Rawat, the nation has lost a visionary figure who always questioned the existing system, says retired Lieutenant General Sarath Chand (63).
Bipin Rawat was a one-year senior to Sarath Chand at National Defense Academy. The duo had worked together in various regiments before retiring from service.
Sarath Chand recollects the moments he had with Rawat. “It was in the year 1974, Rawat joined Nation Defense Academy. A year later, I joined and we hardly had any time to communicate due to the relentless and intense training. In 1978, he joined the Indian Military Academy and six months later I joined the academy. He passed out from the academy with 'Sword of Honor' as he excelled well in training. He later became the battalion commander of eastern Arunachal Pradesh. I was battalion commander of western Arunachal Pradesh. In 2001, we joined a higher command course and our relationship became thick there. We became friends and our families became very close after that,” said Sarath Chand.
Bipin Rawat was a born-soldier and he was very determined and dedicated to his duty, he added. “It was only due to his capability, he became the chief of defence forces; Army, Navy and Air Force. Since his father was in the military, he got an opportunity to be familiar with defence forces even before joining the Army. It was an added advantage for him as he knew clearly about all Indian Army operational areas,” added Sarath Chand.
Having good knowledge of the operations, manpower and logistics of our defence forces, he was very quick in the decision-making process. “He was an integral part during the surgical strike held by our forces against Pakistan.”
Usually, the chiefs of defence forces keep a distance from the media; contrary to this, he created a friendly atmosphere with the media. General Rawat took over as the 27th Army Chief on December 31, 2016, and as the first CDS on January 1, 2020.
Sarath Chand recollects an event to put the spotlight on the extraordinary willpower and courage he had during his career as a soldier. “In 2015, the chief minister of Arunachal Pradesh had convened a meeting to address the threat posed by neighbouring China. He was in the three-core command in Dimapur and I was in the four-core command in Thejpur at that time. He came for the meeting 30-minutes late with injuries on his body. Later we came to know that the helicopter in which he was coming for the meet crashed and he escaped narrowly. Neglecting injuries he came for the meet in the next helicopter as he was not ready to compromise on duty at any point of time. He was always concerned about the safety and security of the nation and I felt many times that he was a born soldier,” said Sarath Chand.
He was interested in sports activities too as he never missed an opportunity to participate in boxing and athletics. “He had no fear of anything. Since he was commanding in field areas, he had immense knowledge of the nature of various terrains. He was one among the few soldiers who possessed good knowledge on Indian boundaries.”
Sarath Chand, however, ruled out any chance for foul play in the accident. “There could be three reasons behind the accident; bad weather, technical glitch or pilot error. Only through a detailed probe after getting the black box, we can confirm the cause of the accident,” added Sarath Chand.