Sikkim border row: China is way ahead of India in numbers when it comes to military might

Continuing standoff between India and China over maintaining territorial sanctity on the Doka La plateau is unlikely to see a diplomatic solution soon with both sides waiting to see who will blink first. Backed by its immense military might China has opted for sabre-rattling as one of its intimidating approach with reports coming in of the country conducting military exercises simulating battle scenarios in Tibet.

The exercises involved combat operations command, combat synergies, live fire shooting training, and comprehensive inspection of arms integration, the report said. The simulation also involves offensive and defensive training. According to the Chinese media, the Peoples' Liberation Army also tested a new light battle tank during the exercise.

Leaving these exercises aside when it comes to comparison of actual arsenal or number of personnel with China, India stands overwhelmingly outnumbered.

 Sikkim border row: China is way ahead of India in numbers when it comes to military might

Representational image. AP

Ground forces


China has the world's largest standing army while India comes third in the list. While China has 1.6 million active troops, India's total strength comes to around 1.3 million soldiers.


According to Global Fire Power, a military data website, the PLA boasts of 6,457 tanks, while the Indian Army has 4,426 tanks. In absolute terms, India's strength is just two-thirds of China's total tank power.

Armoured Fighting Vehicles (AFVs) allow troops to manoeuvre in battlefields. While India owns 6,704 AFVs, China lags behind with just 4,788 AFVs. Self-propelled artillery are weapons like howitzers, which can be mounted on motorised vehicles. India lags behind in this department, with just 290 of them to defend India's borders. On the other hand, China has 1,710 of them — about six times the number that India possesses.

In addition to the self-propelled artillery, armies across the world also possess towed artillery, which are easy to build and maintain. India is marginally ahead in this department with 7,414 pieces, while China's numbers stand at 6,246.

Air Force

It is the firepower in this branch of the military that India seriously lags behind China. With just 676 fighter aircraft, the IAF's strength is about half of what the Chinese PLAAF possess: 1,271 aircraft.

Transport aircraft are important for any military to move its troops swiftly. Here India is in a better position with 857 aircraft as against China's 782.

Helicopters became an integral part of air forces across the world after World War II. Essentially for transport purposes, many helicopters also possess attacking capabilities.

China possesses over 1,100 helicopters, with 206 attack helicopters, India has 666 helicopters and a pathetically low 16 attack choppers.

India's problems are also multi-folds. With the Tejas Light Combat Aircraft yet to boost India's air capacity and India's shortage of squadrons, the IAF seems to be the weak link in India's military set-up.


According to an analysis by IndiaSpend, China's People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLA-N) has 283 major surface combatant warships, four times more than those under the control of the Indian Navy (66).

While India had the distinction of being on of the first Asian countries to possess an aircraft carrier, China is fast catching up.

IndiaSpend noted, "In April 2017, China launched a new aircraft carrier, its second after the Liaoning, but the first to be indigenously manufactured. The Chinese aircraft carrier is scheduled to be operational by 2020."

China now possesses the Liaoning, a Soviet-era warship it purchased from Ukraine and commissioned in 2012 following refit. After four years of testing, the Liaoning conducted its first ever live-fire drills on 16 December, 2016. It also conducted similar drills in the disputed South China Sea on 3 January, 2017, a sign of its increasingly aggressive posture.

On the other hand, Indian Navy is also prepping up its firepower.

The Indian Navy has finalised the specifications for the construction of INS Vishal, an indigenous successor to INS Vikrant. The Vishal will be nuclear-powered, weigh 65,000-tonne and carry more aircraft than Vikrant and Vikramaditya. India is collaborating with the US to fit it with advanced “electro-magnetic aircraft launch system” (EMALS) for the aircraft.

With inputs from agencies

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Updated Date: Jul 07, 2017 14:37:19 IST