By Reena BhardwajWashington [US], December 9 (ANI): The Pentagon top officials on Wednesday (local time) including Secretary of Defense Lloyd J Austin III, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen Mark Milley and Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby condoled the demise of India's first CDS, General Bipin Rawat.
"We are deeply saddened by the loss of General Bipin Rawat, the Indian Chief of Defence Staff, his wife, and eleven others who died in a tragic helicopter crash. As India's first chief of defence, he made a lasting impact on the Indian military and reinforced our strong military-to-military relationship between the US and India," said Milley's statement.
US's top military commander also shared that both Rawat and his wife Dr Madhulika, who too died in the crash had spent time with him and his spouse Hollyanne Milley.
"Hollyanne and I spent time with Gen Rawat and his wife, Dr Madhulika Rawat, during their visit to the US in September. We feel this loss deeply, we are thankful to have met them, and we feel grateful for their life of service," added Milley.
India's first Chief of Defense Staff General Bipin Rawat was among 13 people killed in a helicopter crash on Wednesday afternoon in Tamil Nadu, the Indian Air Force confirmed.
Apart from Gen Rawat and his wife, two other senior military officers, five commandos and five Air Force personnel were all killed in the crash. The helicopter crashed around noon shortly after it took off from the Air Force base in Sulur, Coimbatore, for Wellington in the Nilgiri Hills.
Another senior military officer is being treated in a hospital for severe burns.
Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby opened today's briefing with condolences to the lives lost, including Gen Rawat. Kirby readout US Secretary of Defense Lloyd J Austin III statement.
"Our deepest condolences to the Rawat family, the Indian military, and the people of India after the tragic death of Chief of Defense Staff General Bipin Rawat in a helicopter crash and the families of the other victims of the crash," said Kirby.
Secretary Austin said that the department and he are "deeply saddened by this loss".
"Our thoughts and prayers are with the Rawat family and the families of the other victims of the crash. We are deeply saddened by this loss," said Austin.
"I and the Department extend our deepest condolences to the Rawat family, the Indian military, and the people of India after the tragic passing of Chief of Defense Staff General Bipin Rawat in a helicopter crash," added Austin.
Sharing his experience of working with Rawat he said that he left an indelible mark on the course of the US-India defense partnership.
"General Rawat left an indelible mark on the course of the US-India defense partnership and was at the center of the Indian Armed Forces' transformation into a more jointly integrated warfighting organization," said Austin.
Back in September Gen Bipin Rawat was in Washington D.C. for a visit - just days after Prime Minister Narendra Modi returned from a tour to the United States.
During his stay in Washington D.C., Gen Rawat met the top brass of the US Army. His visit also set the stage for Defence Minister Rajnath Singh's stateside visit for a meeting with his counterpart Secretary of Defence, Lloyd Austin, later this year.
Taranjit Singh Sandhu, Ambassador of India to the United States also expressed his shock and sadness over the tragic demise of CDS Gen Bipin Rawat, his wife and 11 personnel from our Armed Forces.
"Deeply shocked and saddened at the tragic demise of CDS Gen Bipin Rawat, his wife and 11 personnel from our Armed Forces. Had the privilege to interact with CDS and Mrs Rawat in Colombo as well as in Washington DC recently. Condolences and prayers. RIP," tweeted Taranjit Sandhu.
Rawat, 63, became India's first Chief of Defense Staff in January 2019, a newly created position designed to better integrate India's three core military branches, the Army, Air Force, and Navy. He previously served as Chief of the Army Staff from January 2017 to December 2019.
A veteran of counterinsurgency warfare, CDS Rawat served in the most difficult terrains including northern and eastern commands. CDS Rawat was commissioned into the Indian Army in December 1978. (ANI)