‘A straightforward man from the mountains’

‘The General appreciated the importance of history in understanding modern conflict.’
Tibetologist Claude Arpi recalls his meetings with General Bipin Rawat.

I met General Bipin Rawat on several occasions because of my research on the India-China boundary issue.

He was a simple, straightforward, down to earth pahadi man from the mountains.

When he told you he will do something, he did it — in spite of his busy schedule.

He was a man of conviction and followed through on what he believed.

He released the third volume of my book India-Tibet Relations (1947-62) as chief of army staff. Very few politicians, ministry of external affairs bureaucrats and serving military officers were willing to do so, but he agreed and released it in his office in April 2019.

He appreciated the importance of history in understanding modern conflict.

He had a sense of history and emphasised the importance of military archives

A few months ago, a military division was started within the ministry of defence. I believe it was because of him that the government realised the importance of military history.

For example, if our soldiers and military planners don’t have knowledge of the intricate history of Galwan or Pangong Tso you are already losing half of the battle against China.

A senior National Archives of India official told me for the first time since 1947, 10,000 files from the defence ministry have been transferred to the National Archives of India.

I am sure General Rawat was instrumental in that as well.

He recently said China was India’s enemy number one.

Shortly after taking over as army chief, he was confronted with the Dokalam crisis on the trijunction of India-Tibet-Bhutan.

He convinced the fourth King to give his blessings for Indian intervention in June 2017 to defend Bhutan, but also the Siliguri corridor.

As chief of defence staff, he had a tough task in integrating the three services for creation of theatre commands. He had a capacity to bring people together and I think that is why he was selected as CDS.

He made good progress. Unfortunately, he has left the job half done and I hope the next CDS can compete the task.

He set up the department of military affairs which is manned not by bureaucrats alone, but includes military officers.

He also played a prominent role along with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Army Chief General M M Naravane in the military dialogues with China on Ladakh.

His passing away is a big loss for India.

Feature Presentation: Aslam Hunani/Rediff.com

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