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India’s top defense official Rawat dies in chopper crash


India’s top defense official, who had been steering the biggest transformation of the nation’s military since its independence in 1947, was killed in an helicopter crash in the southern state of Tamil Nadu.
The Russian-made Mi-17 V5 helicopter carrying Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat, 63, met with an accident on Wednesday, the Indian Air Force said in a statement on Twitter without providing details on the crash. Rawat, his wife, and 11 others on the chopper have died, while Group Captain Varun Singh is in hospital.
Rawat was appointed in late 2019 to the newly created office that serves as the primary military adviser to the government, facilitates joint operations of the army, navy and air force, and buys equipment for all three branches.
The biggest overhaul of the nation’s military in decades is under progress and aims to bring assets and men under theater commands like in the US and China.
Rawat, a four-star general, had led troops in skirmishes against the Chinese in the 1980s.

More recently, in 2015, soldiers under his command deployed cross-border strikes against insurgents from India’s northeast based in camps across the border in Myanmar. Those strikes came after at least 18 Indian soldiers were killed in an ambush in the northeastern state of Manipur.
Before he was named Chief of Defence Staff, Rawat was handpicked by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government to lead the Indian army, bypassing more senior generals. He was the country’s 26th Indian Army Chief and the first Chief of Defense Staff.
The helicopter crash that killed him is among a long of line of fatal military crashes for India’s aging fleet. Five years ago, in one of the worst ever air accidents, a Russian-made medium lift transporter flying to Andaman Nicobar Island from Chennai crashed into the Bay of Bengal killing all 29 persons on board. And in 2019 another 13 personnel were killed when another AN-32 craft crashed in Arunachal Pradesh.

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