Thursday, July 25, 2024

The Last Salute To The First Chief

Photo Caption: General Bipin Rawat giving Army Chief memento to Ashish Singh.

By Ashish Singh

General Bipin Rawat, India’s first Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), has a larger than life personality. Seldom, in positions such as his is an individual larger than the responsibility of the position, this was indeed the case with the General. 

He will be remembered as the architect and executor, as the 3 Corps commander of the cross border surgical strikes of Uri and and Myanmar in 2015 and 2016. A year later, at the Army headquarters in Delhi, first as the Vice Chief and then as the Chief, Gen. Rawat proved that he was not just a reformer, he was a transformer. What followed as India’s first CDS, Gen. Rawat’s appointment came without any surprise.

Born and brought up in an army family, General Rawat brought many changes to the functioning a performance of the Indian Army.  From opposing ‘sahayaks’ to officers system and to starting a WhatsApp number connecting Army Chief’s office and the soldiers on the ground directly. Such was the ability of the man to connect at all levels. Within a few days of shifting into his newly allotted CDS residence at Kamraj Marg, on a weekend evening, sitting with him on his lawns, I remember having curiously asked him, ‘What next, after CDS?” He replied, ‘Just want to retire after this tenure’. I instantly asked, “Politics?’ He promptly replied, “Nah…” After few minutes of conversation on the same topic, I asked him, ‘how would you want to be remembered after you hang your uniform?’ He looked at the setting sun and answered, “Soldiers’ General”. Being rooted was evident in his style. He was humble and pragmatic shying away from all additional pomp and show that his position could afford. He kept a low profile and believed in getting on with the job. 

The General was media savvy, and few know that he held a PhD on the subject. Not many understood his techniques and ability on information warfare (IW) He was a keen observer and surpassed the ability of any good listener, never afraid to probe and ask relevant questions when needed. Having worked alongside him on developing various IW courses for the Indian Army, I realised very early on that he knew exactly what he wanted and did what was required to get the desired results. 

Gen. Rawat had many firsts to his credit, few known, many still unknown in the public domain. A personality of his calibre and achievements has many untold stories. In response to my proposal to write a book on him and the operations undertaken by him, after several rounds of discussions, we had finalised the title of the book ‘The First Chief’, a project slated to begin in February 2023.

 ‘The First Chief’ is a project left unfinished, but known stories about him will continue to inspire and for all of us, the south block will never be the same without General Rawat. 

Good Bye Chief…


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