China more powerful but no need to worry: Defence experts


New Delhi: Even as Indian Navy chief Admiral Sureesh Mehta raised eyebrows with his comments that India cannot match China in military capability, former armed forces chiefs and defence analysts say that while Beijing was certainly more powerful, one need not be “overly concerned”.

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“China is more powerful nation but it is not that our capability is what it used to be earlier. We are much more capable now. It is difficult to match force by force,” former Indian Air Force chief, Air Chief Marshal Fali Homi Major, told IANS.

The same opinion was echoed by former Indian Army chief, General V.P. Malik, who led the army during the 1999 Kargil conflict with Pakistan.

“There is a sealing now on the scale of conflict between the two countries as both are nuclear armed nations. So the maximum we would see in terms would be a threshold of a full-fledged war. But there is nothing alarming,” Malik added.

“What the navy chief has projected is that our military asymmetry to China is similar to our asymmetry vis-a-vis our economies. Instead of matching China force by force we should harness technology more innovatively. It is not alarmist at all but a prudent suggestion that money allocated is spent and spent wisely,” National Maritime Foundation director Commodore (retd.) C. Uday Bhaskar said.

Terming China one of India’s primary challenges, Mehta said at a lecture Monday that “it would be foolhardy to compare India and China as equals”.

“Whether in terms of GDP, defence spending or any other economic, social or development parameter, the gap between the two is just too wide to bridge (and getting wider by the day). In military terms, both conventional and non-conventional, we neither have the capability nor the intention to match China, force for force,” Mehta told an elite audience at the India Habitat Centre.

Earlier IAF chief Major, who retired May 31, had said that China was a bigger challenge for India as little was known about its capability.

“What I meant was while it is easy to gauge the intentions of other countries, it is slightly difficult with China because it is a closed society. Moreover quantity does not matter but capability does. We need not be that overly concerned with China. We do not have to put them on such a high pedestal,” Major added.

The Chinese armed forces overrun the Indian armed forces in sheer numbers. While India has a 1.3 million strong army, China’s is around 2 million.

However, the Chinese air force and navy have been lagging behind in terms of quality platforms and vessels. However, China has increased its defence spending exorbitantly to achieve rapid modernisation of its two forces and lately has flexing muscles to spread its influence in the South Asian and Indian Ocean Regions.

The Chinese air force is at a nascent stage but the infrastructure that it is coming up with in north-eastern region is cause for concern, say Indian military experts.

Caught unawares, the Indian Air Force has also started work to revive its advanced landing grounds and upgrade its existing runways in the north-eastern states and Ladakh region bordering China.

India recently deployed its frontline fighter jets Sukhoi-30 MKI in Tezpur in Assam. Though a symbolic induction has been done, a squadron strength has not been completed yet, according to defence ministry sources.

The Chinese navy, which is currently termed as a ‘brown water’ navy with limited reach and endurance, does not operate a single aircraft carrier. The Indian Navy, which operates one aircraft carrier, is already constructing indigenous aircraft carrier and nuclear submarine, compelling China to increase the pace of its efforts to get an aircraft carrier soon.