Year 2016 has been quiet challenging for the Indian army. The enemies on the eastern and western borders have taken to asymmetrical and hybrid warfare, resulting in one of the bloodiest years for the Indian armed forces. This change in strategy from those looking to bleed India by a thousand cuts has demanded an offensive defense policy being spearheaded by NSA Ajit Doval. And so, the selection of the next Indian army chief is a reflection of the continuation of the same strategy.
Bipin Singh Rawat, who was chosen as the next Indian army chief superseding two senior officers, is one of the most accomplished commanders; battle-hardened to tackle the twin threat of cross border terrorism and LoC skirmishes. That he has been the operational brains behind some of the most recent Indian strikes on enemy territory shows that he was indeed the correct choice for India’s army chief.
Rawat comes from a background of on-field operations. Back in June 2015, he was given the task of avenging the death of 18 Indian soldiers who were ambushed by the Naga Rebels in Manipur. The rebels, who crossed over to Myanmar, didn’t know what hit them when an immediate hot pursuit was carried out by the Indian army inside the rebels’ territory across the border. One of the things which stood out in those strikes was the intelligence preparedness and Rawat was credited for a clean operation by the Para Commandos.
General Rawat is from a military background and his father was a lieutenant general in the Indian army too. He joined the Indian army in December 1978 and was awarded the sword of honor after graduating from the Indian Military Academy the same year. Like his predecessor Dalbir Singh, Rawat too belongs to Gorkha Rifles. He was recently appointed as the vice-chief of army.
What tipped the scales in favor of Gen. Rawat was his familiarity within the government of the day and operational closeness with the Defence Ministry. Just three weeks after he took over as the Vice-Chief, the Indian army carried out the surgical strikes against Pakistan sponsored terrorist havens across the LoC. The Director General Of Military Operations reports to the vice-chief and in that sense it made Gen. Rawat a key figure in decision-making during that time.
Like many top commanders in the Indian army, Bipin Rawat has had international experience of heading the Indian banner in a UN Peacekeeping operation in Congo in 2008. During his time in Congo, the Indian brigade changed its approach from that of a velvet glove to an iron fist. The same can be expected during his tenure as the Indian Army Chief because whatever assignments he has taken over the past few decades of his service, the General has had a no-nonsense approach to unprovoked aggression.