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China Vs India – Military Confrontation Review 

The China VS India war of 1962 is commonly referred to as the Sino-Indian War, the Indo-China War, or the Sino-Indian Border Conflict.

Much of this war took place in harsh mountain conditions, entailing large-scale combat at altitudes of over 14,000 ft. It’s also worth noting that the China vs India War did not involve the deployment of the navy or air force by either side since the high altitude and freezing conditions caused both logistical and welfare difficulties. Many troops from both sides died in the freezing cold.

The war started on 20th October and ended on the 20th of November after China declared a ceasefire. Afterward the 1962 conflict, there was quite a number of small clashes between both sides although no large-scale fighting ensued.

Cause Of The  Indo-China War

Although there are quite a number of issues that played a role leading to this war, the main reason was the highly disputed 3,225km long Himalayan border.

There was a dispute over the sovereignty of the widely separated Aksai Chin and Arunachal Pradesh border regions. India claimed that Aksai Chin belonged to Kashmir while China claimed that this region belonged to Xinjiang. One of the main triggers of the war was the construction of the road that connects the Chinese regions of Tibet and Xinjiang.

The Aftermath Of The War

China India war
Traditional borders of Jammu and Kashmir (CIA map). The northern boundary is along the Karakash valley. Aksai Chin is the shaded region in the east.

The war had a huge impact on both China and India. Let us have a look at the effect in each country:

War impact on China

According to Chinese military history, this war helped the country to achieve the country’s policy objectives of securing borders in its western sector.

This is due to the fact that China retained de facto control of the Aksai Chin. After the war, India abandoned the Forward Policy and the de facto borders stabilized along the Line of Actual Control (LoAC).

Even though China got a military victory, they lost in terms of international image.

The country’s first nuclear weapon test in October 1964 and its support of Pakistan in the 1965 war against India confirmed the American view of communist world objectives.

While the Sino-Indian War led to lots of blame and debates that ultimately led to the modernization of the Indian Military, in China the war is now treated as basic reportage of facts with relatively diminished interest by Chinese analysts.

War impact on India

The war brought massive changes in the Indian Military that caused it to be more prepared for such conflicts in the future.

The country recognized the serious weakness in its army and worked hard at doubling its military power as well as resolving the military’s training and logistics problems to later become the 2nd largest military army in the world. All these efforts paid off in enhancing the army’s capability and preparedness.

Many statues of the fallen Indian troops were erected. The civilians reacted with a surge in patriotism as they saw the need to strengthen their defenses. The 1962 war united the country like never before.

Many Indians view the war as a betrayal of India’s attempts at establishing a long-standing peace with China. Then questioned the once popular saying of “Hindi-Chini Bhai-Bhai” which means “Indians and Chinese are brothers.” Soon after the war, the Indian government forcibly deported or coerced thousands of Chinese Indians to leave the country.

Later Conflicts between China and India 

After the 1962 war, tensions existed on the China-India border. There were two incidents which caused the two countries to exchange fire in Sikkim. These happened in late 1967. The first incident was dubbed “Nathu La Incident” and the other being “Cho La Incident.”

Again in 1987, there was the Sino-Indian skirmish. This was a bloodless conflict as both countries showed military restraint. In 2017, the countries were involved in a military standoff during which several troops were injured.

The Nathu La and Cho La incidents

These two clashes took place on the border of China and the Kingdom of Sikkim on the 11-15 September 1967 and 1st October 1967 respectively. 88 people were killed and another 163 were injured on the Indian side while 340 people were killed and another 450 were injured on the Chinese side during both incidents.

After the Nathu La incident, the corpses of the fallen soldiers were exchanged on the 16th of September. The clashes ended after Indian forces achieved “decisive tactical advantage” and defeated the Chinese forces.

After the Indian victory, a ceasefire was arranged to end the Nathu La clashes. India was greatly pleased with the combat performance of its forces and took it as a sign of striking improvement since the 1962 war.

In the Cho La incident ended when the Chinese forces withdrew from Cho La which is a few kilometers north of Nathu La.

Diplomatic Process

In 1993 and 1996, China and India signed the Sino-Indian Bilateral Peace and Tranquillity Accords agreements in the bid to maintain peace along the LoAC. Even though ten meetings of a Sino-Indian Working Group and five meetings of an expert group took place to determine where the Line of Actual Control lies, there wasn’t much progress.

On 6th July 2006, the historic Silk Road passing through the disputed region through Nathu La pass was reopened. Both countries agreed to resolve the issues through peaceful means.

In October 2011, India and China were required to formulate a border mechanism to handle different perceptions as to the LoAC and resume the bilateral army exercises between the Indian and Chinese army from early 2012.

Military Comparison: China Vs India

The Indian Military

The Indian military consists of the Indian Army, Indian Navy, and Indian Air Force. The Supreme Commander of the Indian Armed Forces is the President who is also in charge of making appointments.

They are under the management of the Ministry of Defence of the Government of India. The Indian Armed Forces have their headquarters in New Delhi. It comprises of more than 1,443,000 active personnel and 960,000 reserve troops.

China fighter jet
J-20 at Airshow China 2016

Due to India’s varied geography, their army has rich combat experience in diverse terrains. In the beginning, the army’s main agenda was to defend the country’s frontiers. Over the years, the agenda has changed and now they have taken up the responsibility of providing internal security especially in insurgent-hit Kashmir and the north-east.

The Indian Army has been engaged in a number of major military operations including the First Kashmir War, Operation Polo, the Sino-Indian War, the Second Kashmir War, the Indo-Pakistani War, the Sri Lankan Civil War, the Kargil War, the Sino-Indian Skirmish, the Portuguese-Indian War, the Siachen Conflict among others.

It has also participated in a number of UN Peacekeeping operations including those in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Vietnam, El Salvador, Cambodia, Angola, Namibia, Lebanon, Cyprus, Liberia, Mozambique, and Somalia. The Indian Army also provided a paramedical unit to facilitate the withdrawal of the sick and wounded in the Korean War.

The Indian Army is armed with the nucleic triad and has, over the years, undergone steady modernization with investments in areas such as futuristic soldier systems and missile defense systems.

The Department of Defense Production of the Ministry of Defense is responsible for the indigenous production of equipment used by the Indian Armed Forces. The Indian government has launched a “Make in India” initiative to indigenize manufacturing and reduce the country’s dependence on imports.

In 2014, India was the largest importer of military equipment with Russia, Israel, France, and the United States being the top foreign suppliers. As of today, India’s military is very powerful.

The Chinese Military

The armed forces of the People’s Republic of China are the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA), which is a type of special forces. It was founded in 1927. The PLA has more than 2 million servicemen.

The Chinese military is made up of five different branches: the army, navy, air force, rocket force, and the strategic support force which is in charge of cyberspace and electronic welfare. Traditionally, the army has been the most dominant unit of the PLA. However, now the other four branches (air force, navy, rocket force, and the strategic support force) make up more than half of the Chinese military.

Over recent years, the Chinese military has significantly cut down on ground forces with the aim of boosting and reconstructing the world’s largest armed forces into a more comprehensive modern fighting force. It’s been optimized to meet the pressing needs of the changing times.

The Special Operations Forces Units of the Chinese military are:

  1. “Oriental Sword” – Beijing Military region
  2. “Arrow” – Beijing Military Region Special Forces Unit
  3.  “South Blade” – Guangzhou Military Region Special Forces Units
  4.  “Falcon” – Chengdu Military Region Special Forces Unit
  5.  “Siberian Tiger” – Shenyang Military Region Special Forces Unit
  6.  “Flying Dragon” – Nanjing Military Region Special Forces Unit
  7.  “Oscar” – Nanjing Military Region Special Forces Unit
  8.  “Night Tiger” – Lanzhou Military Region Special Forces unit
  9.  “Eagle” – Jinan Military Region Special Forces Unit
  10.  “Leopard” – Southwest China Falcon Special Force 

Which Is The Bigger Military Power? The Chinese Army Or The Indian Army?

When asked this question, one might like to base their judgment on the China vs India war that took place in 1962; almost 60 years back.

China and India military comparison

This could mean that the Chinese Army has a psychological advantage over the Indian army but, fast forward to the present situation; a lot has changed now as India has better weaponry and equipment than before.

China may be more powerful in terms of troop number and defense budget but that doesn’t necessarily mean that China can subdue India; facts can be deceiving at times.

Let us look at some statistics as compared in the detailed table below:

 CHINAINDIA
Worldwide power rank3/1334/133
Manpower750,000,000616,000,000
Fit for service619,000,000489,000,000
Active Personnel2,260,0001,362,500
Reserve Personnel1,452,5002,844,750
Defense budget152 billion USD51 Billion USD
External Debt983.5 billion USD507 billion USD
Foreign reserve3 trillion USD507 billion USD
Fighters / Interceptors1,271676
Attack aircraft1,385809
Transport782857
Helicopters206666
Attack helicopters20616
Serviceable airports507346
Tanks6,7886,704
Self-propelled artillery1,710290
Towed artillery6,2467,414
Rocket projectors1,770292
Aircraft carriers23
Submarines6816
Frigates5114
Destroyers3511
Corvettes3523
Patrol craft220139
Mine warfare craft316
Merchant marine2,030340
Major ports and terminals157

Weapons of Mass Destruction- Nuclear Weapons

As long as the world is constituted the way it is, almost every country needs to devise the latest devices and use them for its own protection. It is everybody’s hope that the countries that have weapons of mass destruction use them for constructive purposes.

China nuclear weapons

China has a nuclear stockpile of 270 warheads. The first nuclear weapon test was conducted in October 1964 and the last one in July 1996.

The Chinese Intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) can strike targets as far as 15,000 km. China has a missile shield that guards the country against any incoming missiles by intercepting them before they reach their territory. The country has at least 90 ICBMs 66 of which are land-based and the others submarine-based.

India nuclear weapons 

India has a nuclear stockpile of 130 to 140 warheads. India’s nuclear program can trace its origins to March 1944. The first nuclear test was in 1974.

The minimum tactile missile range is about 150km, the furthest strike distance tested successfully is 5,000 – 6,000 km. Surya, an ICBM being developed has a range of up to 16,000 km.

Ability to develop and produce smart weapons 

China’s military technology

New Chinese weapons typify a strategy known as “remote warfare” whereby the come up with machines that are more creative; a little automation gives the machines a tremendous boost.

Such machines can deploy missiles to attack the enemy in other locations. Although the target is chosen by a human soldier, the missile uses artificial intelligence to avoid defenses and make final targeting decisions. The weapon actually flies over a target zone searching for its mark.

The speed of the Chinese technology is noteworthy as they’re constantly thinking about how to ensure they remain competitive in the next generations.

India’s military technology

India’s military technology is also advancing quite fast. The country has experienced a major breakthrough in its efforts to develop directed energy weapons that will very soon put India firmly in control of its own fate.

The directed energy weapons basically produce a beam of concentrated electromagnetic energy. Such high-powered lasers can destroy enemy missiles and end wars before they even begin. Although they are not yet ready and might take years to be ready, once they are they will be very crucial in offering a major deterrence capability.

Space military capabilities 

China space program

In 2007, China did its first successful test on an anti-satellite weapon. The country reaps tremendous benefits from the intelligence that these satellites provide.

It, therefore, becomes very important for China to protect its satellites against attack. Such an attack would potentially cause instability in space which would then affect their military capabilities on earth.

China continues to strengthen its space military capabilities by conducting sophisticated space operations and testing on-orbit dual-use technologies that could be applied to counter-space missions. China owns about 30 satellites that are used for civil, commercial, and military communications.

India space program

In the bid to improve India’s space warfare capabilities, the country created the Defence Space Research Organization. This organization’s main aim is to develop space warfare systems and associated technology. India also has the Defence Space Agency that commands the space assets of the army, Navy, and Air Force, as well as the military’s anti-satellite capability. The Defence Space Agency has a staff of 200 personnel from three wings of the armed forces.

India also conducted an anti-satellite test to demonstrate its capability to shoot down satellites in space. The tremendous growth in India’s counter-space capabilities including kinetic physical, non-kinetic physical, and electronic represents a sparked fresh competition in outer space.

Cyber capabilities

China’s cyber capabilities

China is massively expanding its cyber capabilities so much so that in the next decade or so, there will be about 5 world-class cybersecurity schools training cyber-warriors.

In 2014, the president pledged great state commitment (both financially and policy-wise) to upping China’s cybersecurity capabilities. Looking into the future, we should anticipate significant growth in Chinese cyber-warfare capabilities; something that China will put to test in a future blitz against foreign cyberinfrastructure.

India’s cyber capabilities

India has been, on the low-key, been strengthening its cyber warfare capabilities. The Defence Cyber Agency will work in coordination with the National Cyber Security Advisor to train more than 1000 experts who will be distributed into a number of formations of the Army, Navy, and IAF.

The trained personnel will have both offensive and defensive capacity. Creating a strong cyber warfare capacity is really critical for military networks that are increasingly becoming dependent on the internet which increases their vulnerability.

Electronic war capabilities 

China’s electronic war capabilities

China has been conducting electronic warfare tests in the South China Sea. These electronic assets are designed to confuse and disable communications and radar systems. This electronic warfare equipment represents significant additions to China’s military portfolio.

India’s electronic war capabilities

Over recent years, India has emerged as one of the most successful and active groups of electronic warfare professionals in the world. Owing to the speed at which technology is advancing, it’s expected that in the near future warfare will be electronic.

This makes innovation in the field of electronic warfare a very important feature for all countries. India is now turning to homemade electronic warfare suites as well as those produced by domestic companies. For example, electronic warfare suites for the 150 Mi-175-5 helicopters will include radar warning receivers, missile approach warning systems and countermeasure dispensing systems.

Military allies 

China’s military allies

If China goes to war with any of its enemies, here are some of the nations that would join in and rally their support:

  • North Korea
  • Pakistan
  • Sri Lanka
  • Laos
  • Cuba
  • Any other nation whose existence depends on aid from China

In real sense, China is a nuclear weapon state that doesn’t really need allies. So it doesn’t engage in military alliances to protect themselves against threats from other nations.

India’s military allies

If a country is against China, chances are that the country will most probably support India if the two nations go to war with each other. Some of the countries that would support India are:

  • USA – If it’s about the South China Sea, most likely that the US will be involved together with India
  • Australia – same as the US
  • Japan – It’s a bit more dangerous for Japan since they do have their own territorial conflicts with China. Most likely they will support with technology and maybe financially.
  • South Korea
  • Israel – technology, intelligence

Weapon suppliers 

China

China makes its weapons and armed drones. In the beginning, China relied heavily on Russia, Ukraine, and France for its weapons. However, today China still buys its high-tech weapons from Ruåssia.

At the moment, it is the world’s biggest arms seller and exporter. Their customer base comprises of up to 53 countries across the globe. In the last 5 years, China supplied 153 armed drones to 13 countries. Their main buyers are Egypt, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and the UAE.

India

India clearly has the resources to make its own weapons but the country would rather buy them instead. India is the world’s second-largest importer of weapons after Saudi Arabia.

Russia accounts for about 58% of India’s imports and it’s expected that the Russian share in the Indian imports will go up in the next 5-year period. This is due to the fact that India has signed several deals and more are in the pipeline. Other suppliers include the USA, European states, Israel, and South Korea.

China Vs India – Military capabilities comparison – Conclusion

According to the dry numbers, China has a military advantage over India in almost every aspect measured but life is more than dry numbers only. In every area where China leads India, India is not stagnant but is also engaged in the investment and development of technologies and military capabilities.

The technology and weapons gap between the Chinese and the Indian military isn’t so significant. I believe that you can show who is superior on paper by use of numbers but only in an actual war can you tell which army has a better advantage over the other.

Winning a war doesn’t really depend on the number of army personnel but depends on the optimum use of utilities and assets.

Strategy and planning are all that matters. In this case, both the Indian and the Chinese armies have proven that they can fight wars in poor conditions and bad logistics. If a conflict were to happen, it would be limited in scope and short in duration instead of a large scale, force-on-force war due to the threat of nuclear attack as both countries have sufficient nuclear capability.

In the past year, we have experienced this on the Doklam Plateau when a direct confrontation between China and India arose against the backdrop of Chinese works in Bhutan. The two superpowers were very careful not to allow the conflict to spill over beyond minor physical confrontation between unarmed soldiers.

It is quite clear that despite the open competition for influence in East Asia and Southeast Asia, and despite the territorial disputes between the two countries, war is not on the agenda for the foreseeable future.

The scenario closest to the war in the region lies in the South China Sea, between the United States and China. And the question about India is how far it will go in its attempts to prevent China from taking control of the South China Sea.

At this point, the US is leading the fight against China’s takeover. Will India decide to join this effort? If so, there is no doubt that this will significantly increase the chances of a direct military confrontation between China and India.

However, these two upcoming superpowers are not going to war any time soon – at least not intentionally. Now they understand that such an act would lead to major destruction to mankind. At the moment, these two countries are doing so well in trade and their citizens co-exist in peace. Let’s hope it will continue like this.

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