New Delhi, Dec 10 (EFE).- Thousands of people on Friday gathered in the Indian capital to pay their last respects to the late Chief of Defense Staff Bipin Rawat, two days after he was killed along with his wife and 11 other people in a helicopter crash in the southern state of Tamil Nadu.
The causes of the crash are not clear yet, while the military has ordered an investigation.
Delhi streets were packed as the funeral procession passed by taking the bodies of Rawat and his wife for cremation with full military honors, after which a funeral ceremony was held.
Footage aired by local broadcasters showed the funeral van, decorated in the Indian flag colors of saffron, white and green, moving slowly as civilians thronged on both sides to offer floral tributes and flags.
Tributes have also poured in on social media, with a large number of people expressing affection and gratitude for Rawat’s services to the country.
At the funeral, which included a 17-gun salute as per protocol, India’s senior political leaders were present to pay their respects, including Home Minister Amit Shah, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, opposition leader of the Indian National Congress party Rahul Gandhi, and National Security Advisor Ajit Doval.
Around 800 personnel of the armed forces, including high-ranking military commanders from neighboring countries such as Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Nepal and Bangladesh, were also present on the occasion.
Rawat, 63, is credited with leading some of India’s most aggressive military operations in recent years and was appointed the first-ever chief of defense staff of the country in 2019, commanding the army, navy and the air force.
The post has suddenly become vacant due to his unexpected death.
Rawat previously served as the Vice Chief of the Army Staff in December 2016, amid tensions with neighboring Pakistan following an action by Pakistani insurgents that killed 19 Indian soldiers, to which New Delhi responded with “surgical strikes” across the border and a diplomatic campaign against Islamabad.
Under his command, air strikes were also carried out against an insurgent training center in Pakistan in February 2019, days after more than 40 soldiers died in a terrorist attack in Indian Kashmir, attributed to a Pakistani organization.
The military chief’s death comes amid concerns over ensuring a full military de-escalation with China over the disputed border in the northern Ladakh region. EFE