Paying rich tributes to Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Wednesday that he was an outstanding soldier and a true patriot who greatly contributed to modernising India's armed forces and security apparatus.
Gen Rawat's passing away has saddened him deeply, the prime minister said.
In his condolence message, Modi said he was deeply anguished by the helicopter crash in which Rawat, his wife and other personnel of the armed forces died.
They served India with utmost diligence, Modi said, adding that his thoughts are with the bereaved families.
'Gen Bipin Rawat was an outstanding soldier. A true patriot, he greatly contributed to modernising our armed forces and security apparatus.
'His insights and perspectives on strategic matters were exceptional. His passing away has saddened me deeply. Om Shanti.
'As India's first CDS, Gen Rawat worked on diverse aspects relating to our armed forces including defence reforms. He brought with him a rich experience of serving in the Army. India will never forget his exceptional service,' the prime minister tweeted.
Gen Rawat, his wife Madhulika and 11 other people on board an Indian Air Force helicopter died in a crash near Coonoor in Tamil Nadu on Wednesday, the Indian Air Force said.