Lt Gen BNBM Prasad, SM, VSM (Retd.)

Lucknow: Destiny has its own way and the soldier loves to die in action. This is true for everyone in uniform with Chief of Defense Staff(CDS)General Bipin Rawat remaining no exception to this rule and in such a death one attains salvation. It is tragic and the most unfortunate for the nation to lose such an illustrious soldier who distinguished himself at every level of his career spanning over 4 decades from the sword of honour from Indian Military Academy (IMA)to become first CDS.

It is not a coincidence that this four-star General from Gorkha regiment died while on the way to Defense Services Staff College(DSSC) that was once commanded by another Gorkha officer, Field Marshal Maneksahw. Like legendary Manekshaw who was the first Field Marshal of Indian Army, General Rawat became the first CDS. Both were national hero’s and both died at the same Military Hospital Wellington that I commanded once and it is here I also had the honour to treat the late Field Marshal. General Manekshaw was the architect of 1971 war while General Rawat was the man behind the concept of surgical strike and unified theater command. Both were monumental steps for restoring the nation’s pride.

Late General had his vision for the Armed Forces to make it formidable and a force to recon with, matching with the changing times of internet and cyberwarfare. Nobody can match Manekshaw when it comes to military leadership while General Rawat will be always remembered as a foot soldier who streamlined Armed Forces functioning to make it lean and thin.

I was fortunate to be associated with these two legends. I was very close to the Field Marshal and when he died on 27 June 2008, I was with him holding his hand and watching his sublime exit from the mortal world. General Rawat was my colleague at Kolkata where he was the Major General foreseeing the military operation in the eastern theatre of war. Later his military experience there helped him to become the architect of the famous surgical strike against insurgents hiding in jungles of Burma while he was the Corps Commander. The Eastern Command Hospital that I commanded during 2012 to 2014 was the brain child of late Field Marshal and it was here at this iconic hospital, I had treated both General Rawat and his father late Lt Gen Laxman Singh Rawat, another General from the same regiment that both father son duo had the honour to command. His wife Mrs Madhulika was very well to known to me and I had helped her as a doctor and a friend at the time of need. When General Rawat was the Vice Chief of the Army Staff (VCOAS), I was not only his neighbor at my 21 Safdarjung road residence but his friend philosopher and guide. When his name was announced to be the 27 Army Chief, I visited him at his next- door residence and congratulated him. He always held me in high esteem and it is my association with late Field Marshal that made this trust stronger. He was not in the race and in normal course he would not have become the Chief of Army Staff but destiny has its own way.

His life has been cut short now by this tragic air crash that took with him his beloved wife Madhulika and 11 other Armed Forces personnel. In his death, the nation has lost a soldier and a true patriot and the loss is irreversible. May God rest both Mrs Madhulika and General Bipin in eternal bliss.

Views expressed are personal

Lt Gen BNBM Prasad is former Director General Hospital Services & Chief Consultant Medicine Armed Forces & President’s Honorary Surgeon.