Rinzin Wangchuk 

His Majesty The King and His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo offered prayers and a thousand butter lamps at the Kuenrey of the Tashichhodzong yesterday for the late Chief of Defence Staff of the Indian Armed Services, General Bipin Rawat, his wife Madhulika Rawat, and 11 armed forces personnel who lost their lives in a helicopter accident.

His Majesty The King and His Majesty the Fourth Druk Gyalpo sent messages of condolence for the bereaved families, and the government and people of India.

General Bipin Rawat and his wife along with 11 other armed forces personnel died after the MI-17V5 helicopter, ferrying them from Sulur Indian Air Force Station to the Defence Services Staff College, Wellington, crashed in a forested area in the Nilgiris district of Tamil Nadu on December 8.

The General was on his way to the Staff College to speak to the faculty and student officers.

General Bipin Rawat had an outstanding military career serving in the most perilous terrain in India in his younger days and later commanded the Southern Army Command and served a short stint as the Vice Army Chief before being appointed the 26th Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) of the Indian Army in December 2016.

In recognition of his exceptional leadership and professional competency, the four-star general was designated as the first Chief of Defence Staff (CDS) in India in 2019 to oversee the coordination and functioning of the three services in the Indian Armed Forces – the Air, Navy, and the Army. He was named CDS just a day before he was to retire as the Indian Army Chief, a position that he held for a full three-year term.

The CDS post was newly created as part of the Indian government’s efforts to restructure Indian armed forces to meet present-day challenges.  

While at the helm, General Bipin Rawat was instrumental in contributing immensely in the conceptualisation and modernisation of the Indian Armed Forces.

The General visited Bhutan several times, including his first private visit as a student in the early 1970s and was a well-wisher and true friend of Bhutan. His last visit to Bhutan was a three-day visit in April 2017 after he took over as the COAS in December 2016.

A statement from the RBA read:  “Our thoughts and prayers are with the bereaved families who lost their loved ones in this tragic accident and offer our deepest condolences to the Indian Armed Forces who lost a great military leader and several other personnel.”

The Prime Minister, Foreign Minister, Chief Operations Officer of the RBA and senior officers of the Armed Forces, along with the Indian Ambassador, the heads of IMTRAT and Project DANTAK, and representatives of the Indian community in Bhutan, joined the ceremony to offer a thousand butter lamps.