Border face-off: Is China more powerful than India?


There is mounting tension deep in the Himalayas between two of the world's most powerful and populous nations.

Chinese media has aired pictures of civilian planes full of soldiers holding guns headed towards its mountainous border with India where clashes have flared in recent days.

Anger has been building between the two regional powers over their 3500km border, which has never been properly demarcated.

According to senior Indian officials, India had responded and mobilised its troops also.

"Our build-up matches the Chinese deployment, if not more, in terms of troops, support elements, force multipliers and aerial support," a senior official told the Hindustan Times.

Chinese state media has shown images of a civilian plane full of troops as part of a drill that coincided with an ongoing border conflict with India.
Chinese state media has shown images of a civilian plane full of troops as part of a drill that coincided with an ongoing border conflict with India.

There have been numerous face-offs and brawls between Chinese and Indian soldiers at the frontier, which has been the source of numerous minor conflicts and diplomatic spats since a bloody war between the countries in 1962.

However, they have become more frequent in recent years.

As recently as May 9, several Indian and Chinese soldiers were injured in a high-altitude cross-border clash involving fists and stone-throwing in Sikkim state.

Indian officials said that within days, Chinese troops encroached over the demarcation line in the Ladakh region, further to the west.

Now there are fears the tensions may boil over into a larger conflict as a media - both social and traditional - war blows up between the two nations.



China and India are the world's largest nations in terms of population, but in terms of raw manpower China has a slight edge with a population of 1.384 billion people to India's 1.296 billion.

Analysis from Global Firepower currently ranks China as the world's third most powerful nation in terms of military strength, behind the United States and Russia. India sits just below them in fourth place.

Their figures show that China currently has more than two million active military personnel ready for combat, compared to India's 1.4 million.

India, however has a massive pool of 2.1 million citizens it can call upon as reserve personnel. China in comparison has just 510,000.

China has a far higher defence budget, standing at $US237 billion to India's $61 billion. China however has over three times the level of external debt India has.

In terms of military equipment, China is stronger in the air with 3210 aircraft at their disposal to India's 2123.

China also has a naval advantage with 777 ships at its disposal to India's 285.

India however has more land power, with 4295 tanks to China's 3500.



Media outlets in China and India are trading barbs as social media is being bombarded with propaganda from both nations.

Unconfirmed, and in some cases, debunked, videos have also circulated on both Chinese and Indian social media purporting to show troop incursions and scuffles between soldiers.

In a piece Tuesday published by the Global Times - a nationalist, Chinese state-backed tabloid - military analysts predicted that "the ongoing standoff is not likely to end immediately, as concrete issues must still be resolved."

A leading Indian newspaper meanwhile has hit back saying "short of China's full withdrawal should satisfy India".


"A 'status quo ante' will require that Chinese soldiers vacate areas where they have dug in for weeks now. Nothing short of their full withdrawal should satisfy India, which means that more than talks on the ground and by diplomats, there is a need for strong political direction from Beijing to the People's Liberation Army to do that," The Hindu noted in an editorial this week.

"Otherwise, India must prepare for a long-drawn stand-off, and manoeuvres aimed at ensuring China's pull back."



Despite the tension India and China have agreed to "peacefully resolve" a latest border flare-up that has heightened tensions between the nuclear-armed neighbours, New Delhi said Sunday, after a high-level meeting between army commanders.

"Both sides agreed to peacefully resolve the situation in the border areas in accordance with various bilateral agreements," the foreign ministry said in a statement.

The ministry added that the commanders agreed an "early resolution" was "essential" for bilateral relations between the world's two most-populous nations.

"Accordingly, the two sides will continue the military and diplomatic engagements to resolve the situation and to ensure peace and tranquillity in the border areas," the statement said.

The talks, which took place in the Chushul-Moldo region between the two commanders, is believed to be the highest-level meeting since the Sikkim exchange.

India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping have sought to ease the tensions at summits over the past two years when they agreed to boost border communications between their militaries.

Originally published as Border face-off: Which nation is stronger?