Indian Army Chief General Manoj Mukund Naravane said on Wednesday that General Bipin Rawat, India's first Chief of Defence Staff, was a visionary who initiated far-reaching reforms in the military's higher defence organisation.
The comments came after in a tragic incident on Wednesday, General Rawat, his wife Madhulika Rawat, and 11 others were killed after the IAF chopper they were travelling in crashed near Coonoor in Tamil Nadu.
Naravane and all ranks of the force expressed their deepest grief and sorrow over the untimely demise of General Rawat, his wife and other military personnel.
General Rawat was instrumental in laying the foundation for India's joint theatre commands and giving impetus to the increased indigenisation of military equipment, a legacy which will be carried on and strengthened by successive generations, the Army said in a statement.
The 11 deceased military personnel accompanying the CDS and his wife on the way to Wellington will also be equally missed by everyone, the statement added.
They performed their duties as per the best traditions of the armed forces, the force said.
Gen Rawat was on his way to the Defence Services Staff College at Wellington in Nilgiri Hills to address the faculty and student officers of the staff course.
Around noon, the IAF Mi17V5 helicopter with a crew of four members carrying the CDS and nine others met with the tragic accident near Coonoor.
Out of the 14 people, Group Captain Varun Singh, Directing Staff at the Defence Services Staff College, is currently undergoing treatment at the Military Hospital in Wellington.
Singh, along with his wife and seven staff, boarded a flight at Delhi for the Sulur IAF base near Coimbatore at 8:47. They landed in Sulur at 11:34 am. From there, they boarded the Mi17V5 helicopter at 11:48. At 12:22 pm, the Air Traffic Control (ATC) lost contact with the chopper, which crashed in a forest area around 7 km from Coonoor.
The IAF said a Court of Inquiry has been ordered into the accident, and the report is expected in one month's time.
The mortal remains of all the deceased will be brought to Delhi on Thursday.