Gonikoppal, Karnataka: Indian Army chief Bipin Rawat on Saturday said it was time to recommend the name of Field Marshal K.M.Cariappa to be honoured with the Bharat Ratna (posthumously)—the highest civilian honour in India.

“Time has also come to recommend Field Marshal Cariappa for the award of Bharat Ratna. If others can get it, I see no reason why he should not," Rawat said in Gonikoppal, Kodagu district—about 250km from Bengaluru.

Rawat was in Kodagu to unveil the statues of independent India’s first Field Marshal and then Commander-in-Chief of the Indian armed forces, K.M.Cariappa, and former chief of the Indian army, late General K.S.Thimmayya.

“He (Cariappa) is a deserving person and we will shortly address the issue on priority," the army chief said.

Rawat’s statement added to the growing voices in Kodagu district seeking the awarding of the Bharat Ratna to Cariappa for his services.

Both Cariappa and Thimmayya have inspired generations of youngsters in Kodagu region to join the armed forces. The statues will not just be to honour the two army chiefs but also inspire younger generations to seek careers in the defence, Rawat said.

Cariappa was conferred with the honorary rank of Field Marshal on 28 April 1986.

“If they can give it to (Sachin)Tendulkar, either the level of the Bharat Ratna has come down or since he (Cariappa) is an army man, he is being overlooked?," Colonel (Retd) K.C.Subbiah and member of the Field Marshal Cariappa and General Thimmayya forum (FMCGT) said after the event. He added that he didn’t see any hurdles in bestowing a civilian honour on a defence veteran.

Subbayya said that they would push for the recommendation from the army as well as the Karnataka government.

Rawat also announced an additional Rs10 lakh support for the forum’s efforts to restore Sunny Side, the home of Thimmayya.

Members of several forums led by sportsmen, politicians among others have been fighting to get the government to confer the Bharat Ratna on late Major Dhyan Chand—one of India’s greatest hockey players. Though the government in 2011 included sports in the category eligible for Bharat Ratna, Dhyan Chand was overlooked for the honour in 2013 even though his name was included in the list. Tendulkar was chosen for the honour that year.

On recent intimidating tactics deployed by China, Rawat said, “Every army has to prepare for conflict, that is the task of every army, so there is nothing new in anybody (those questioning the preparedness) saying I also have to keep preparing, I cannot say....in peace time we all train and prepare for any eventualities, so there is nothing new in that."

Rawat said comments come after the Chinese President Xi Jinping instructed his armies to improve combat capabilities and readiness for war, PTI reported.

India and China were engaged in an over two-month long stand-off in the Doklam plateau from 16 June, a conflict that threatened to escalate the troubled relations between Asia’s two biggest powerhouses.