Forces: China Versus India

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September 27, 2005: India has been emerging as a major regional power over the last twenty years. The Indian economy is growing at a rapid clip (roughly 6.8 percent a year), and its GDP is currently at $3.13 trillion. It also has a military that matches up well with any potential adversary. But how powerful is India when compared to other Asian powers? There is one major rival that has to be considered in Asia: its neighbor China. With a GDP of $7.2 trillion (about twice that of India's, and a higher growth rate), China also has a population (1.3 billion) about 30 percent larger than India's. These two countries are not on a collision course yet. The biggest cause of friction is China's weapons exports to Pakistan, followed by a border dispute that last flared into war way back in 1962.

Both countries have made extensive acquisitions of Russian technology, like Kilo-class submarines and Su-30 fighters. Both sides also have made some extensive modernization efforts, replacing old technology with new equipment. Both nations are rapidly becoming regional powers to be reckoned with.

The Indian Army has 2.1 million men, counting reserves. It also has 2,800 main battle tanks (including 1,700 T-72s, 400 Vijayanta, 310 T-90S, 120 Arjun, and 200 T-55s), and 1,350 infantry fighting vehicles (1,300 of them BMP-2s). The Indian army also has a large amount of artillery (including 1,300 105mm Indian Field Guns, 750 130mm M-46 howitzers, 550 122mm D-30 howitzers, and 410 FH-77B 155mm howitzers).

The Chinese army has 2.3 million men, and over 7,000 tanks, 5,000 of which are the obsolete Type 59 (a copy of the T-55), and another 1,200 are the more modern Type 96.

The Indian Navy is probably one of the best in Asia. It has one carrier (Viraat), with as many as three others coming in the near future (in addition to the air-defense ship under construction, and the INS Vikramaditya, formerly the Admiral Gorshkov). India also has 11 destroyers, six of which (the three Delhi-class and the three Talwar-class) are modern, 11 frigates (six of which are the modern Godavari-class), and 16 submarines (14 of which are either the Type 209 or Kilo-class submarines). India has also recently agreed to lease two Akula-class nuclear submarines from Russia. The Chinese navy has a lot of quantity (74 submarines, 25 destroyers, 45 frigates), but many of these designs are old (16 of the destroyers, 30 of the frigates, and 52 of the submarines are state-of-the-art for 1960).

The Indian Air Force has around 670 aircraft. These aircraft have all been heavily upgraded. They have modern aircraft as well, including 50 Su-30MK (to eventually reach 190), 50 Mirage 2000, and 60 MiG-29. Even India's MiG-21s have been upgraded to carry missiles like the AA-11/R-73 Archer, making them deadly adversaries. India's pilots also train like Western pilots do. The Chinese air force has a lot of quantity (1,900 combat aircraft). However, many of these are older planes (350 J-6/MiG-19, 500 J-7/MiG-21, 300 Q-5, and 80 H-6/Tu-16 Badger). The only modern combat aircraft in the Chinese air force are the 180 J-11/Su-27 Flankers, 200 Su-30MKK Flankers, and 200 J-8 Finback fighters.

Both India and China are rising powers in Asia. That said, India has a pair of crucial leads - its Navy and Air Force have advantages in training and equipment that enable India to project power. China is nowhere close to India's level of experience with carrier aviation, and PLAAF pilots are not as good as India's. The Chinese have an edge in their army, but that would be easily overcome by India's naval and air superiority, making India the major power in Asia by a small margin. - Harold C. Hutchison (hchutch@ix.netcom.com)

 


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