Indian Army Updates

Challenging China


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Gulf of Hormuz

Mains level: Paper 3- Leveraging advantageous geography to counter China


The Chinese are about to extend their geographical advantage by building a new high-speed rail from Chengdu, running close by and parallel to the Arunachal border, up to Lhasa.

Manpower and Defence Budget: Comparison with China

  • The Indian army, according to diverse sources, numbers between 12,50,000 and 14,00,000 officers and men.
  • Chinese PLA actually has only 9,75,000 officers and men.
  •  They have downsized their army.
  • China is an aspiring world power that spends $252 billion on its defence budget, as compared to $72.9 billion that India spends.
  • Both countries limit their budget to around 2 per cent of their GDP, which in China’s case is five times our size.

Why does India need to reduce manpower in defense?

  • Expensive:  A major portion of the budget is spent on manpower, 81 percent of the army budget goes into manpower and maintenance. Gradually, manpower is going to get increasingly expensive.
  • Also, our strategic options get constrained because the army gets 61 percent of the defense budget.
  • We need to downsize the army by 2,00,000 men over five years through retirement and reduced recruitment.
  • The reduction in manpower will save approximately Rs 30,000 crore, which can be equally divided between the three services.

Way forward: Bigger role to navy and air force

  • We can achieve better conventional deterrence against China by giving bigger roles to the navy and air force.
  • The first step is to accept that we are an asymmetric power and leverage the RMA (Revolution in Military Affairs) so that numerical inferiority is of no consequence.
  • They are invulnerable on land, and their only strategic weakness is their reliance on the Indian Ocean SLOCs (sea lines of communications) for 70 percent of their imported oil.
  • The only guarantee of Chinese non-aggression and good behavior is a well-crafted threat to their oil tankers and a complete naval mastery of the escalation that is bound to follow.
  • India can also leverage the QUAD resources in various ways such as information.
  • Build up the Car Nicobar airfield into a full-fledged airbase.
  • We could negotiate with Oman for the use of the old RAF airbase at Masirah to dominate the Gulf of Hormuz and threaten the Chinese base at Djibouti.


China cannot be countered by throwing expensive manpower at the problem, but only by shifting the battlespace to advantageous geography, by a united navy and air force effort, while a technically advanced army holds the Himalayan border.

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