Bipin Rawat was born in Pauri Garhwal district, Uttarakhand, India. His family had been serving in the Indian Army for multiple generations, and his father was Lieutenant General Lachu Singh Rawat. Rawat attended Cambrian Hall School in Dehradun, St Edward’s School in Shimla, and the Indian Military Academy, Dehradun, where he was awarded the 'Sword of Honour'. He is also a graduate of the Defence Services Staff College, Wellington and the Higher Command Course at Fort Leavenworth, USA. He has a MPhil in Defence Studies from Madras University, a Diploma in Management and another in Computer Studies. In 2011, he was awarded a Doctorate of Philosophy by Chaudhary Charan Singh University, Meerut for his research on military-media strategic studies.
Rawat was commissioned into the 5th battalion of 11 Gorkha Rifles on 16 December 1978, the same unit as his father. He has lots of experience in high altitude warfare and spent ten years conducting counter insurgency operations. He commanded a company in Uri, Jammu and Kashmir, an infantry battalion in the Eastern sector along the Line of Actual Control at Kibithu, 5 Sector of Rashtriya Rifles (Sopore) as brigade commander, 19 Infantry Division (Uri), III Corps (Dimapur) and was General Officer Commanding-in-Chief (GOC-C) Southern Command (Pune). He also held staff assignments which included an instructional tenure at the Indian Military Academy (Dehradun), General Staff Officer Grade 2 at the Military Operations Directorate, logistics staff officer of a Re-organised Army Plains Infantry Division (RAPID) in central India, Colonel Military Secretary and Deputy Military Secretary in the Military Secretary’s Branch and Senior Instructor in the Junior Command Wing. He also commanded MONUSCO (a multinational brigade in a Chapter VII mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo) where he was twice awarded the Force Commander’s Commendation. During his career span of 37 years, he has been awarded for gallantry and distinguished service with the UYSM, AVSM, YSM, SM, VSM, COAS Commendation on two occasions and the Army Commander’s Commendation.
Rawat assumed the post of GOC-C Southern Command on 1 January 2016 and assumed the post of Vice Chief of Army Staff on 1 September 2016. On 17 December 2016, the Government of India designated him as the 27th Chief of the Army Staff, superseding two more senior Lieutenant Generals, Praveen Bakshi and P. M. Hariz. He is the fourth officer from the Gorkha Brigade to become the Chief of the Army Staff.
During the 1987 face off in the Sumdorong Chu valley, Rawat's battalion was deployed against the Chinese People's Liberation Army.
While commanding MONUSCO (a Multinational Brigade in a Chapter VII mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo), Rawat had a truly outstanding tour. Within two weeks of deployment in the DRC, the Brigade faced a major offensive in the east which threatened not only the regional capital of North Kivu, Goma, but stability across the country as a whole. The situation demanded a rapid response and North Kivu Brigade was reinforced, where it was responsible for over 7,000 men and women, representing nearly half of the total MONUSCO force. Whilst simultaneously engaged in offensive kinetic operations against the CNDP and other armed groups, Rawat (then Brigadier) carried out tactical support to the Congolese Army (FARDC), sensitization programmes with the local population and detailed coordination to ensure that all were informed about the situation and worked together in prosecuting operations whilst trying to protect the vulnerable population. This hectic period of operational tempo lasted a full four months and during this time Rawat, his headquarters and his international Brigade, were tested to the full, across the operational spectrum. His personal leadership, courage and experience were pivotal to the success that the Brigade achieved. Goma never fell, the East stabilized and the main armed group was motivated to the negotiating table and has since been integrated into the FARDC. He was also tasked to present the Revised Charter of Peace Enforcement to the Special Representatives of the Secretary General and Force Commanders of all the UN missions in a special conference at Wilton Park, London on 16 May 2009.
In June 2015, eighteen Indian soldiers were killed in an ambush by militants belonging to the United Liberation Front of Western South East Asia (UNLFW) in Manipur. The Indian Army responded with cross-border strikes in which units of the 21st battalion of the Parachute Regiment struck an NSCN-K base in Myanmar. 21 Para was under the operational control of the Dimapur-based III Corps, which was then commanded by Rawat.