By Nantoo Banerjee
The brewing military tension between India and China may not escalate into a war unless China goes crazy about testing its defence capability on India after a gap of five decades. Time has changed. India’s military and economic strength today is far advanced compared to that in 1962. Now, taking on India militarily is going to be far more complex, if not quite risky, for China. Even a chance defeat of China on the Himalayan heights could substantially puncture its global military pride. In 1979, China had fought a war with Vietnam but it had to withdraw its troops without achieving its objective. China has not fought a direct war against any other country, including Taiwan, for a long time although it has periodic scuffle with neighbours, including the former Soviet Union. China had a seven-month long undeclared armed border conflict with the Soviet Union at the height of the Sino-Soviet conflict in sixties.. China had also indirectly participated in the Vietnam war — from November 1, 1955 to April 30, 1975 — against the US forces as a strategic ally of North Vietnam, providing arms, military training and essential supplies. Conversely, Indian soldiers have proudly fought one after another border war against Pakistan since 1947 and came victorious each time.
Although India ranks fourth — behind the US, Russia and China — among the world’s top 15 armed forces, the country needs to go some distance to match China’s mostly homemade firepower. Presently, India is the world’s biggest importer of military arsenal. For several years, India was the top defence importer running neck-and-neck with US-protected Saudi Arabia. The Arab country stands well behind Pakistan, ranking 15th in global military strength. India needs to substantially pump up its defence expenditure and make strategic weapons locally. India’s annual defence budget is nearly a fourth of China’s. Last year, the country’s budgeted defence expenditure was only around $ 71.1 billion as against China’s defence outlay of $261 billion.
Geographically, China is nearly three times bigger than India. However, in terms of population, the two countries nearly match each other in head counts at over 1.3 billion. China covers a geographical area of 9,596,961 sq. km. as against India’s 3,287,590 sq. km. Few will disagree that India must spend a lot more on defence infrastructure and weapons production. The US, the world’s top military super power, spends over $716 billion on defence. Despite having 24 aircraft carriers as against China’s one, the total US naval assets are now well below China’s. This exposes China’s global military ambition and its increasing naval power play in the Asia-Pacific and Indian Ocean regions.
India’s borders with China, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Myanmar have long been a victim of poor budget spending on strengthening Indian position within its boundaries by building best possible infrastructure, proving strong fencings, having excellent roads along both the LAC with China and LOC with Pakistan, airports and highly equipped advance border posts. China is reportedly building three new runways and a big armament depot very close to LAC and Pangong Tso, an endorheic lake in the Himalayas situated at an elevation of 13,862 feet in the Ladakh region. What is India doing? It must have similar airports, runways, helipads and arms depots with big stockpiles of weapons and innovative arms for hand-to-hand fights. Indian soldiers are intelligent and physically strong. With proper logistics and equipment support, they can prove their real worth in the case of a war. The 21.83-million Chinese armed force, almost 50 percent bigger than India’s, is yet to win a major border war in five decades. Interestingly, Global Times, a Chinese Communist Party mouthpiece, lately boasted editorially that “We must remind the Indian side that China’s national strength, including its military strength, is much stronger than India’s. …… If a border war starts, India will have no chance of winning.” The chances are that such a loud and ugly war cry may turn out to be a saucy braggadocio on China’s part should such an all-out border war escalates anytime soon or later.
Going by the world history, China must remember that if a Chinese instigated border war with India escalates into a full-scale war it is bound to degenerate into an international war with several major global military powers joining and aiding India to fight a common enemy, China, often flexing economic and military muscles in the Asia-Pacific region, Central Asia and South Asia. Such a war may provide a great opportunity to countries in North America, Europe, Far East Asia and West Asia to ensure that China is finally cut down to size. The result of such a war may even end forever China’s centrally administered communist rule that has produced more number of global capitalists than by any other country in the last 10 years.
Global Times may be right to say that India can’t match export-led China’s economic and military power. The world’s second largest economy has the third largest military power. Going by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) year book, 2020, and the latest Global Firepower report, India currently has a stockpile of only 150 nuclear warheads as against China’s 320 warheads. In the realm of military resources on land, China has 3,500 tanks, 33,000 armoured vehicles, 3,800 self-propelled artillery, 3,600 towed artillery, and 2,650 rocket projectors.
In contrast, India possesses 4,292 tanks, 8,686 armoured vehicles, 235 self-propelled artillery, 4,060 towed artillery and 266 rocket projectors. China’s total air fleet combines 3,444, including 1,232 fighter jets, 371 dedicated attack crafts, 224 transport aircraft, 314 trainers, 111 for special missions, 911 helicopters, and 281 attack helicopters. In comparison, the Indian air fleet has a strength of 2,141, including 538 fighter jets, 172 dedicated attack crafts, 250 for transport, 359 trainers, 77 for special missions, 722 helicopters, and 23 attack helicopters. However, China may be aware that in the case of war, the arsenals alone don’t matter. Men behind the arsenals and their gallantry hold the key. (IPA Service)