Upcoming INDIAN ARMY CHIEF Lt General Bipin Rawat, The Master of 'Surgical Strikes'
Well before the surgical strikes against Pakistan, the Modi government’s first challenge came in Manipur in June 2015 when 18 Indian soldiers were ambushed and killed by Naga rebels (NSCN-K). It responded with cross-border strikes, one that National Security Advisor Ajit Doval monitored carefully. And on the military side, the responsibility of coordination lay with the Dimapur-based 3 Corps Commander Lt Gen Bipin Rawat.
Cut to September 2016 — within three weeks of taking over as Vice-Chief of Army Staff — Rawat found himself at the centre of another cross-border strike, this time across the Line of Control into Pakistan-occupied Kashmir.
The Director General of Military Operations reports to the Vice-Chief and, in that sense, put Rawat right at the heart of operational nerve centre in South Block, again working closely with the NSA.
As Rawat awaits his turn as Army Chief-designate, trumping two officers senior two him, Defence Ministry sources said in the current scenario “counter-terrorism and counterinsurgency are key issues” and, therefore, “background and operational experience” of candidates on the panel had to be taken into account from this perspective. Rawat, the sources added, fulfilled this as he has commanded a unit in the Valley and also has “familiarity with functioning of the Army and the Ministry of Defence”.
Also from the Pauri Garhwal area like the NSA, Rawat went to Cambrian Hall boarding school in Dehradun. His friends de-scribed him as “stout, fair and shy.”
Rawat then moved to StEdwards, Shimla. Rawat’s father, the late Lt Gen Lachu Singh Rawat, also belonged to the Gorkha Regiment. In fact, both father and son commanded the same 5/11 Gorkha Rifles unit.
Rawat has an outstanding record and his contemporaries describe him as “a professional, a gentleman.” He passed out in 1978 from the Indian Military Academy, was in the Military Operations directorate as a Major, spent considerable time in the Military Staff branch that deals with transfers, postings and promotions, besides participating in counter-insurgency operations.
His prime contender Lt Gen Praveen Bakshi, who was next in line, too has an “outstanding” track record but he belonged to the Armoured Corps while Rawat as an infrantry man scored on counter-terror operations, claimed Defence Ministry sources.
Interestingly, Rawat was in the same course as the Southern Army Commander Lt Gen PM Hariz, second in line after Bakshi, but lost a term at the National Defence Academy. He, however, made up and eventually passed out of the Indian Military Academy with Sword of Honour.
Rawat was Sector Commander of a Rashtriya Rifles sector involved in counter-terrorist operations in Jammu and Kashmir as a Brigadier. He has commanded the 19 Infantry Division in Uri and 3 Corps in Dimapur.
The supersession has conveyed to the defence services that seniority is no guide in making such decisions. Army sources explained that the supersession will have a cascading effect in appointment of the next chief who, otherwise, would have been Lt Gen D Anbu, the present Northern Army Commander.
The upheaval has started speculations on the Chief of Defence Staff and if Bakshi could be tipped for that but the political spadework for this is still to be done