It was the summer of 2012 and I was very excited to be at the US Army Command and General Staff College Fort Leavenworth, Kansas to study a semester-long course on Media and Military. 'Media and Military' was the course offered to select Journalism students of the William Allen White School of Journalism, the University of Kansas and the US Department of Defense and my excitement knew no bounds when I was told that I was the first and only Indian Civilian to have been selected to undergo the prestigious course at one of the most prestigious military academies in the United States.
On our first day at the class, we were taken to the Hall of Fame of the College and I could see Tricolour proudly displayed at the academy on the wall the name of former Army Chief Genera lK Sundarji (COAS from 1886 to 1988).
During the introduction lecture, one of the senior instructors told me that senior army officers from several friendly nations come for higher command course at Fort Leavenworth.
The instructor told me that one of his Indian students in the recent past was an Indian army officer and his name was Bipin Rawat. The instructor told me that Rawat was one of his brilliant students and he was destinated to reach the top of the Indian military.
The semester passed with much excitement and I still consider it as one of my most enriching journalistic and academic experience.
During the break, I visited Baramulla to spend a few days with my family as I still had two more semesters to finish to get my degree at the University of Kansas.
I had just reached my home in Baramulla, that a young army officer dressed in civil clothes reached my home and told me that the General Officer in Command of the 19 Division of the Army would want to meet me, I gave consent and said we will meet tomorrow morning.
I reached in time at the division headquarters and I was surprised to see that the General Officer in Command was already waiting for me. I entered the room and I was greeted by Major General Bipin Rawat.
He was smiling and welcomed me with a tight hug as if we were not friends but long lost brothers, even though I was too young to him in age. I was not even surprised to find that he knew everything about me, I knew that every security agency had a “file” of every working journalist in the valley.
Major General Bipin Rawat knew that I was a student at the US Army Command and General Staff College Fort Leavenworth and he shared several memories of his tenure there.
We spent almost three hours together and before parting exchanged pleasantries and after spending two weeks in my native town, I flew back to finish my course in the United States. After my return to India, I heard about an air accident that involved the Eastern Army Commander Lt Gen Bipin Rawat. I somehow got to speak to him about his well-being.
Time passed by and the government declared Lt Gen Bipin Rawat to be the next army chief and he assumed office on December 31, 2016. After he assumed the office, I left a message at his office and the response was prompt, the same evening I get the call from the office of the Chief of the Army Staff General Bipin Rawat, stating that the army chief wanted to speak to me. I was a bit hesitant, but as soon as we exchanged hello, he was as warm and as affectionate as when we had met for the first time.
We spoke at length for almost 40 minutes as if long lost brothers were speaking and this was just the beginning. General Bipin Rawat during his first visit to Jammu ensured that we meet. During his first visit to Jammu, he hosted me a dinner at the headquarters of the 16 Corps.
Whenever we met at any official function, he ensured that I felt at ease and soon after ending any press interaction that I was present at, he would ensure to come and meet me. I had the privilege to meet him on several occasions and whenever I was in Delhi, I used to visit him at his office. The last time we shook hands was at the inauguration of the bridge near the International Border in Kathua where he had accompanied the Defense Minister Rajnath Singh to do the honours.
Today when the government of India appointed General Bipin Rawat as the first Chief of Defence Staff, I personally feel that it is one of the best decisions that the Narendra Modi government has taken. Known as the soldiers' General, General Bipin Rawat is known for knowing the pulse of the soldiers he commanded. He is the one who leads from the front and who has always been to the forefront to boost the morale of his soldiers.
With the responsibility of being the first Chief of Defence Staff of the nation, General Bipin Rawat would be instrumental in synergizing the coordination between all the three forces i.e. Army, Navy, and the Air Force. It is beyond doubt that in the coming days under the leadership of General Bipin Rawat, the Indian Armed forces, including Army, Navy, and Air Force would be a major global force to reckon with.
(The views and opinions expressed within this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts, analysis, assumptions, and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of Republic TV/ Republic World/ ARG Outlier Media Pvt. Ltd.)