Chinese media thinks PLA can annihilate Indian Army. Can they? A fact check
Despite numerical inferiority, the Indian Army may give the People’s Liberation Army of China a bloody nose if Doklam standoff leads to war.
1Including reserve components, India has more troops than China.
2India and China are equal in terms of fighter aircrafts.
3China cannot afford to engage with Indian Navy far off from its supply base.
The Doklam standoff between Indian Army and Chinese People’s Liberation Army started in June. In July, a CAG (Comptroller and Auditor General) report, tabled in Parliament, said that the Indian Army does not have ammunition to fight a war for more than 10 days.
And, now – in August – China’s state media has said that Chinese PLA can “annihilate” Indian Army if war breaks out between the two nuclear-armed Asian neighbours.
A Global Times – a hawkish Chinese government mouthpiece – article said, “If a war spreads, the PLA is perfectly capable of annihilating all Indian troops in the border region.”
The Global Times article described Indian Army as lying “far behind” in strength in comparison to PLA. It said, “It is a war with an obvious result, as PLA has made sufficient preparation for military confrontation. The government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi should be aware of the PLA’s overwhelming firepower and logistics.”
The claim of the Chinese state media calls for a look at how the armies of India and China stack up. According to Global Firepower website – which tracks military strengths of more than 100 countries- India and China are ranked 4 and 3 among 133 military powers of the world.
Chinese PLA is the biggest military power in terms of number of troops employed by it followed by the Indian Army. China has about 22.6 lakh soldiers in its army while Indian Army has 13.6 lakh active troops. This gives China a definite numerical edge over India but there are other factors at work.
If the reserve components of the army are taken into account, China’s relative position weakens in comparison to India. Indian Army has about 28.44 lakh reserve soldiers while Chinese PLA has about 14.52 lakh troops under reserve components.
According to Global Firepower statistics, total military personnel under Indian Army is about 42.07 lakh while for Chinese PLA, the total strength stands at 37.12 lakh.Indian Army has 4,426 battle tanks while Chinese PLA has 6,457. This number looks bigger on paper but in reality, Chinese tanks have to be deployed over much larger border area compared to India’s. Further, Indian Army possesses 6,704 armoured fighting vehicles while PLA has only 4,788.
China has numerical advantage in self-propelled artillery with 1,710 to 290 of India’s. China also has 1,770 rocket projectors compared to 295 under Indian Army. But, in towed artillery, Indian Army is even numerically superior to Chinese PLA. Indian Army owns 7,414 towed artillery while PLA has 6,246 such vehicles.
China has 1,271 fighter or interceptor aircraft while Indian Army has 676 such planes. Similarly, China has 1,385 attack aircraft while the Indian Air Force owns 809 such fighter planes. But, the critical point here is again that the area over which the China has to press its aircraft into service is almost three times that of India’s.
Though Indian Air Force has less number of main fighter aircraft, its support system is far superior to Chinese. The IAF has 857 transport aircraft compared to 782 owned by China. India has 346 serviceable airports compared to China’s 507.
In terms of helicopters, India may actually have relative advantage. The IAF has 666 helicopters while China has 912. However, while China has 206 attack helicopter, the IAF has only 16. China’s geographical area is more than three times of India’s.
In all, Indian Air Force has 2,102 compared to 2,955 of China. This is in no way inferior given the strategic dimensions the respective air forces have to look after.
Though the Indian Navy has three aircraft carriers while China has just one, Chinese naval force looks superior on paper in comparison to India’s. China has 68 submarines compared to 15 of the Indian Navy.
India has 14 frigates while China has 51. Similarly, China has 35 destroyers while Indian Navy has 11. China has 31 mine warfare craft compared to six owned by the Indian Navy. But, the naval power superiority may not actually help China in the event of war.
China cannot afford to engage with the Indian Army so far from its supply base. Its submarines and destroyers may easily be trapped in the Indian Ocean where Indian Navy is a formidable power.
Further, China has too much at stake along its eastern borders for its army and air force to divert its full resources to Indian borders. In contrast, India’s maritime borders are peaceful.
India has a shared border of 13,888 km while Chinese frontline extends upto 22,457 km. India doesn’t have favourable equation on borders Bangladesh, Myanmar, Bhutan and Nepal. But, China is in border tussle with not only in the Himalayas but also in the South China Sea and East China. Its central Asian border is also a worry for Beijing.
Under such security and geostrategic circumstances, the claim of the Chinese state media looks totally misplaced and hyperbole. Chinese government is feeling domestic pressure as India resisted its attempt to alter trijunction in Doklam plateau while it went overboard with provocative and war-mongering statements.
There are signs that diplomatic channels are working and progress is being made especially after National Security Advisor Ajit Doval’s Beijing visit when he met Chinese President Xi Jinping among others. Over the past two days, both India and China have said that diplomatic solution is being worked out. With this in backdrop, it seems the Chinese state media is only playing to the gallery in that country.