China-India Firm Up Border Defences

RUSI provides an analysis of China and India military balance and the border war situation. Royal United Service Institute (RUSI) is the world’s oldest and the UK’s leading defense and security think tank. Its mission is to inform, influence and enhance public debate on a safer and more stable world. RUSI is a research-led institute, producing independent, practical and innovative analysis to address today’s complex challenges.

China is attempting to disrupt the construction of Indian military infrastructure in the region. China’s army uses localized escalations to disrupt or freeze the construction of Indian infrastructure. China has occupied high ground straddling a critical Indian road artery. It seems they want to hold the territory rather than use it as bargaining leverage.

On paper, PLA forces in the Western Military Theatre operate at a significant advantage to their Indian counterparts. The PLA’s Western Theatre Command fields 230,000 troops compared to the 225,000 troops which can be mobilized from India’s Northern, Central and Eastern commands. China has built a lot of road and rail links on the Chinese side of the border. China can redeploy forces to the region at increasingly rapid rates. Roads on the Indian side tend to end 40–80 km from the front lines of a likely conflict.

Mountainous terrain heavily favors the defender. This means it is tough for either side to make substantial offensive progress.

India has re-deployable artillery available in 17 Mountain Strike Corps. The Mountain Strike Corps can be moved in helicopters. There are about 90,000 soldiers in the Mountain Strike Corps.

Indian forces could envision localized counteroffensives to seize critical territory either as bargaining chips or to permanently improve their position.

China can redeploy 32 divisions from deep within the Western Military Theatre to the border region in a span of around six weeks.

China can build airstrips and refueling points in a very small number of weeks that would enable the redeployment of more PLAAF aircraft from other military regions and bring the PLAAF’s aggregate superiority in numbers to bear. In a longer conflict, we would likely see newer aircraft such as the J-20 redeployed to the Western Military Theatre, shifting the balance of power in qualitative terms.

India does have an early airpower advantage. India’s smaller size means India has more airbases and advanced landing grounds within reach of the border region than does the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF). Chin has eight airbases in the Western Theatre, but the Western Theatre is huge. High altitudes of PLAAF bases on the Tibetan plateau limit the tempo of operations from aircraft operating from these bases. This handicap is not shared by Indian aircraft operating from bases at lower altitudes.

War on the Rocks Analysis

China views India as strategically unreliable. China has no interest in acquiescing to India’s attempt to advance its position on territorial disputes to trade for concessions.

If a strategic friendship with India is untenable, then China is looking for tactical gains. In the near term, China is taking the intersection of the Galwan river and the Shyok river in order to make the Galwan Valley off-limits to India. China is building posts in this location.

India believes its construction of roads is on its undisputed territory. But since there is no agreed boundary. China sees the Indian construction as changing the status quo. These two perspectives will be hard to reconcile.

Nextbigfuture Analysis

Both China and India will lose in a bigger conflict. India exports about $18 billion per year to China and China exports $80 billion to India.

India built roads. China took and is holding a key location. Neither side will accept the other side seizing and taking new positions at this point. There would be no point to ramping up to thousands fighting and using artillery. There is no point to fully mobilizing and throwing 100,000 at each other. There will just be consolidation.

46 thoughts on “China-India Firm Up Border Defences”

  1. It does not matter who the presdient is. Both the Republian and Democrat bases have turned against China. Their “representives” will follow eventutally. At this point it is baked in.

  2. Biden was investigated over and over annnd nothing, zilch, nada, was found between him and China that could compromise him. Trump, on the other hand, owes tens of millions in debt to the Bank of China. But hey nobody does anything about that because the Senate is spineless.

  3. The Indian Navy is very experienced. I have no doubt they can hurt the PLAN but they can’t win alone, not right now. Modi is moving too slow, India is strategically encircled and is at risk of becoming a vassal state if his allegiance with the US doesn’t become solid.

  4. I understand where you’re coming from, but the Himalayas have key freshwater resources for China. We’ve seen this play in the South China Sea, slow expansion so I suspect this is no different. I’m not China bashing, throughout history they always did things slowly before going all out.

  5. Oh come on – don’t tell me you don’t notice all the sudden activity by China in South China Sea, the expansion of island bases, the seizure of Malaysian oil platform, the intrusion into Indonesian waters. And then there’s HongKong crackdown, fresh threats against Taiwan, sanctions against Australia, sudden aggressive behavior by China’s ally North Korea, and even antics by China’s communist ally in Nepal against India.

  6. What a naked propagandist Brian Wang is – he’s a total shill for Beijing. India isn’t the one which is attempting to change the status quo – it’s China which is doing this. It’s China which has escalated the situation. China has been doing lots of road-building in the area. India has merely built roads in response. Likewise, the Chinese troops attacked the Indian troops, as part of their aggressive move – a move which had been planned months in advance. I see that Brian has been fishing around for the right analysis to give the pro-China narrative that he seeks.
    The reality is that China’s Xi is stirring multiple conflicts all around China’s periphery, hoping that one or more of these gambits will pay off with a war. Xi needs a war as a distraction, to rally the Chinese people around his regime. Xi is looking to shore up support for himself during an unprecedented economic slowdown and a worldwide backlash against his govt over its handling of COVID19.
    Don’t delete my post, you propagandist shill. Censorship is certainly Beijing’s style.

  7. Also, you can’t hide naval vessels. It was barely possible in the 19th century. These days private individuals have enough satellite access to map out underground tunnels in North Korea. A ship is impossible. Even subs are just about so.

  8. You think bought and paid for Joe Biden will be tougher on China than Trump? Man, have I got a nice bridge in Brooklyn I will sell you at a super price!

  9. You’ll be 100% correct if the virus wasn’t still raging in China or if the Chinese weren’t the aggressor to the border dispute. At least I can agree with you on one thing, I want Trump out, he’s been giving China soft balls when we need to contain this rabid tiger.

  10. Yeah I mean forget he still has those covert wars and drone strikes, shh don’t question the fuhrer!

  11. You have a too rosy picture of the CCP way of looking at things. I have friends in China from Harbin to Wulumuqi and all the way down to Haikou. What all my friends tell me differs from your rosy Global Times view, what my friends are witnessing is dozens of refrigerated trucks full of dead covid victims outside all the hospitals they drive past. Huh, that’s weird that the whole Chinese covid death tally is sitting outside of one hospital in refrigerated trucks ey? China closing down the North again doesn’t happen for only a hundred sick people, hundreds of thousands most likely dead. But I digress, the CCP definitely values human life if you discount their apathy towards it.

  12. Yen I understand where you’re coming from when you cite Indian incompetence, but it is completely and utterly foolish to discount them like that. India (along with China) have not seen conflict for a generation, any conflict that occurs would most likely have India and her allies and China with what? Nations will fight with India for their democratic values, a debt nation like Pakistan that may fight for China has no interest in losing troops for a war that isn’t theirs. With India at the bare minimum you’ll have the US, Japan, and Australia with them fending off any Chinese misadventures. I hear you bring up trade with Japan but that isn’t a factor, people said the US and EU wouldn’t have a trade war with China, but eventually the burden of kowtow is too great. The last thing Japan wants is a China aggressively pushing out their borders, if India is the one beating China back into the cage then you can bet Japan would be helping India in one way or another. As for oil, they better increase their fracking because pipelines are incredibly easy to strike (it’s almost like they are completely still ).

  13. There would most likely not be a war anyways, China and India along with the rest of nuclear nations would try to end this stupid conflict over rocks before any nukes were to fly. I know Xi and his cabal are more than likely smart enough to realize if they press to hard on India with encirclement then they’ll open pandora’s box, even now India is preparing to completely and utterly destroy those Chinese ports if a war were to break out (along with the US and Japan of course).

  14. Yeah the same thing was said about the US and a trade war with China whom was their largest trading partner. If China sows the wind with their expansionist policies then they’ll have to reap the whirlwind. Japan is already allied with India, all it takes is a Chinese attack and Japan would block China off of the Pacific.

  15. They don’t anymore, that was relic from Deng Xiaoping that ended up dying with Hu Jintao. Xi Jinping completely killed off any form of secrecy about their capabilities since he tries to pose as a strong man, there is no nuance to Chinese capabilities anymore. What you see with China isn’t what you get, it’s a balloon when if you pop it you see its true size.

  16. Yeah let us also forget that a new Chinese carrier burnt up in harbor, it later disappeared from satellite photos. If China goes to war they have no allies, none of their debt trap BRI nations will ever fight for them. China has everything to lose; if they go to war then India would have the United States, Japan, Philippines, Australia, NATO (when China tries to kill Americans), etc. China can’t afford this war, they’ll be pummeled and then the Chinese will realize how weak the CCP really is.

  17. Yeah I mean let’s just forget the wars they’ve had with India in the 60’s and their annexation of Xinjiang and Tibet. Then let us also forget China’s imperialism in Africa and the debt traps they’re setting up all over the world, even their vassal state of Pakistan isn’t safe from Chinese practices.

  18. Yen Tao(if that is your real name). Mark my words as an Indian. Like the Chinese CPC Govt, you are also about Bluster and Propaganda. Time for all that is long gone by. Now is the time to show face on battlefield. Or else it will be known to all that you are just a nation of shopkeepers and traders. Not warriors. When you got to shoot, then shoot. Don’t talk. We are waiting.

  19. Then why don’t you fight. I mean if Indian navy is so weak and inefficient, then I implore the chinese to start a war and be done with us. Come on. Fight us. Don’t make us wait for too long. What are you afraid of? After all you are the next Superpower and we are stupid brown people.

  20. I don’t know who will win. To be a Chinese, I know we want peace to be great again within the 8 years of Emporer Trump administration. Hope covid-20 can hold Indian’s aggressive move.

  21. Japan major cities and American bases in Okinawa, Saipan, Guam etc are all ten minutes from China. I don’t think they are foolhardy to go nuclear to save India.

  22. You think Japan will get involved in any Sino Indian conflicts? Think again, China is Japan’s biggest trading partner and are much closer while India is far on the other side. India has no oil reserves to speak of and China can cut off the Indian Ocean with the string of pearls countries sick of India bullying. India cannot depends on other countries to fight its war, and you know who said that? Modi, prime minister of India said that.

  23. Doesn’t matter. Japan’s Navy is more than sufficient to kick China’s ass on its own and they could go nuclear over a long weekend (not that they need to as they’re under the US nuclear umbrella). Flight time for an SLBM launched from the northern pacific to the Three Gorges Dam is less than 20 minutes. CEP is below 60 meters. A single W88 set for ground burst detonated on the north side of the dam should be sufficient to cause the dam to fail catastrophically. The “super-fuze” for the W76-1MK4A has been adapted to the W88 as well with the explicit purpose of destroying the Three Gorges Dam. By the PLA’s own estimates, a catastrophic failure of the Three Gorges Dam would result in 165,000,000 dead in the first 24 hours and “incalculable” casualties in the following weeks. That was the word they used: “incalculable”. China’s Navy is insufficient to stand up to Japan, let alone a combined Japanese, Indian, and American task force. If China and India go to war, Chinese shipping will be interdicted and China will both run out of oil and starve and there’s absolutely nothing the Chinese can do about it.

  24. You know nothing about China, the government will always emphasis on the people because they are the only factor in their jobs and existence. They need to constantly remind the people and themselves that humans are the greatest resources and the strength and wealth of the nation depend on the people especially the young and the gifted.

  25. China is fracking but not in large volumes. They are reserves in times of conflicts. It’s cheaper, as for the moment, to import than to frack, and yes, China too has environmental groups and local opinions to think of. If there is a crisis, government will then have a good reason to frack on a large scale.

  26. LoL! Don’t be too sure about involvements of the Atlantic allies, if the nukes start flying, three gorges dam is the least of the worries. Most of the down streams are nature reserves acting as flood plains. There are early warning system not just for nuke attacks but in case of breaching of the dam.

  27. Should China and India go to war, China’s Navy will have to stare down the navies of India, Japan, the U.K, and the United States. Against such a combined force China will be reduced to mere fishing trawlers in a matter of weeks. Its overland pipelines will be repeatedly targeted by cruise missiles. It will be blockaded. It will run out of oil and food and, since it imports 50% of its calories, its people will starve. If China attempts to use nuclear weapons, nuclear weapons will find their way to the Three Gorges Dam at which point Chinese civilization will quite literally be washed away. Again, China has zero leverage in a conflict with India.

  28. I live in India and I really like country and people. I would never want to live in China. That said, most Indians are Dunning-Kruger cases. If you hear them discuss the China/India situation they tend to think its a fight between equals or even the dumber ones think India is superior.
    Fact is: India is deeply hampered by corruption. Much more so than China. Indian roads are shit and need to be re-built often after one rainy season because the corrupt companies building them sack 80% of the money. Indias weapons are 80% foreign purchased and they have munition for a 2 week long war WITH PAK what translates to a 4 day war with China. If China went in earnestly the war would be over after 2 weeks with a 100% Indian defeat, and that is without Pak helping.

  29. First, yes, China has shales it can frack but it isn’t an industry in China. Why is that? Second, India has a real navy and they have friends with bigger navies willing to lend a hand. 

    I am sure that China will find Pakistan as great an ally as the U.S. has.

  30. Apologies, I realize that China is always coming with an explanation to its expansionist policies, historic or not, and if it does, it has a right to invade this lands and it should not be argued!

  31. I am talking about modern history, of coarse. The communist party of China, at least, does not expanded on their territories. Tibet, Xinjiang etc were assimilated by mongols and Manchu when China was itself invaded. Today, they are autonomous states.

  32. China slow invasion? Which country did China invaded? There are a few wars with neighbouring countries but China always withdrew to the original border, except some Chinese territories in Aksai Chin that was never part of British colonial India and India was trying to outshine their former master in imperialism with the forward policies.

  33. India Royal Navy is a big joke. They are quite cavalier with safety, a major fire in a nuclear subs on port caused big loss of lives because the sailors scrambling on shore failed to raise the alarm and many were trapped inside because they were aware of the fire too late. Another on loan from Russia was also badly damaged by seawater because the hatch was not closed during an aborted dive.

  34. China has alternative routes overland, artic and Pakistan corridor. There are pipelines from Siberia and the Stans countries. China is capable of fracking and have more shale petroleum reserves than United States. India, on the other hand, is quite hemmed in. If Pakistan let Chinese fleet on their ports, India will be cut off and they are a major oil importer.

  35. China has the largest navy on earth. Keep in mind china always hides it s cards.

    Its normal navy is heavy units. Its coast guard is frigates

  36. Human capitol will become less and less important to the state as automation takes over. Both in production and defense. Still need people to make stuff, but the day will come when people are nothing more than drainers of resources. China has zero regard for the people other than as an asset to the state. When that changes, an already oppressed people will face even harder times.

  37. They better get their licks in now (much as Putin is trying to do, for similar reasons).

    From the South China Morning Post a year and a half ago:
    <quote>The size of China’s labour force is rapidly declining, while its elderly population numbers are increasing dramatically. In 2015, China had 6.9 workers aged 20-64 supporting one senior citizen aged 65 or above (most women retire in their 50s) and there is already a social security shortfall. The ratio will continue to decline, to 3.6 workers in 2030 and 1.7 in 2050. No social security net, no family security and a pensions crisis will evolve into a humanitarian catastrophe. As women live six to seven years longer than men on average (and are usually a few years younger than their husbands), they will be the main victims of population control.</quote>

    If China can stabilize its total fertility rate at 1.2, then the total population will fall to around 1.07 billion by 2050 and 480 million by 2100. But that 1.2 may be hugely optimistic. In the heavily populated northeast, the fertility rate in 2000 was .9 and by 2015 it had fallen to .56 (meaning the emerging generation will be only a quarter of the size of the one behind it). These aren’t like profit margins at a large company. Those can turn completely around in a short period of time. This is demographic destiny. It’s already written.

  38. Once again, no consideration for the fact that, in a hot war, India would interdict Chinese shipping transiting the Arabian Sea and the Indian Ocean. India would get help from plenty of Naval powers all-too-eager to kick China in the face and, as a result, China would run out of oil and starve. China has no leverage in this conflict.

  39. China slow invasion of the countries around it cannot continue as they are responding and increasingly coordinating their actions. This is not China against India or any of the other countries around it as China network of agents around the world would like us to believe, but China against a growing alliance of countries that is stronger than itself and will always be so. Under this circumstances China is not in a position to start a whole out war against any of the countries surrounding it.

  40. “Roads on the Indian side tend to end 40–80 km from the front lines of a likely conflict.”

    I would think that there is a good reason for this. My guess is that the Indians know the area and prefer a buffer with cover, rather than exposed locations and infrastructure that can be easily targeted. Also you can bomb on your own territory if its not important. Remember they are both nuclear armed. China is looking to start wars more than India is.

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