India Vs China: How Do Nuclear-Armed Asian Rivals Stack Up in Military Strength?

China's defense budget of $237 billion is four times the financial resources reserved for India's military.

Tensions between the Indian Army and the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) led to a deadly confrontation between the two sides in the Galwan Valley region of Ladakh on Tuesday.

The border face-off left 20 Indian Army soldiers dead and while Beijing has refused to confirm any deaths on its side, even as an intercept revealed 43 casualties on the Chinese side. Tuesday's encounter between the two South Asian giants marked their biggest military confrontation since 1975. Here's how both countries stack up against each other in terms of military strength and air force prowess:

Manpower and Defense Budget

Indian Army band with ASEAN flag bearer contingent passes through the Rajpath
Indian Army band with ASEAN flag bearer contingent passes through the Rajpath, on the occasion of the 69th Republic Day Parade 2018, in New Delhi on January 26, 2018. PIB

According to Global Firepower, a website that records military strength and obtains most of its data from the CIA World Factbook, China has more than 2 million active military personnel while India falls short with just 1.4 million active soldiers on its side. However, India has a reserve surplus of 2.1 million soldiers compared to China's 510,000.

China's defense budget of $237 billion is also four times the financial resources reserved for India's military, which is approximately $61 billion.

Ground Vehicles, Artillery and Rocket Projectors

Chinese amphibious tank
Representational Image Pixabay

Despite technological advancements in the modern battlefield, the combat tank still remains one of the primary spearheads for ground offensives. China has as many as 3,500 tanks compared to India's 4,292 tanks.

China may have fewer tanks but dwarfs India when it comes to armored vehicles. The PLA has 30,000 armored vehicles, outnumbering the Indian army's 8,700 vehicles. Similarly, it has more than ten times the rocket projectors at 2,650 versus India's 266.

Moreover, China has 3,800 mobile artillery vehicles as opposed to India's 235 and the field artillery units stand at 3,600 versus 4,060 respectively.

Naval Strength

Chinese navy sails through Miyako Strait, conducts more drills in Western Pacific
A file photograph of China's Liaoning aircraft carrier with accompanying fleet conducting a drill in an area of South China Sea. Reuters

Naval strength is one of the most important defining military factors as it can play a significant role in responding to territorial disputes as well as enforcing maritime borders. China has a total of 777 naval assets including 2 aircraft carriers, 74 submarines and 36 destroyers while India's fleet strength pales in comparison with 285 assets, with 1 aircraft carrier, 16 submarines and 10 destroyers.

Air Force

China A J-31 stealth fighter
A J-31 stealth fighter of Chinese People's Liberation Army Air Force is seen during a test flight ahead of the 10th China International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition in Zhuhai, Guangdong province, November 10, 2014 Reuters

China has a total of 3,200-plus aircraft, including 1,232 combat aircraft like fighters and interceptors while India has 2,123 in its arsenal, out of which only 534 can be used in combat. The Xi-Jinping-led country also has 507 serviceable airports compared to 346 in India.

Ballistic Missiles


China has managed to produce and deploy a wide range of ballistic missiles, ranging from short-range missiles to Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs). Meanwhile, India's Defence Research and Development Organization (DRDO) has also been conducting trials of Prithvi-1 (150 km-range) and Prithvi-2 (250 km-range) ballistic missiles, which have been inducted into the armed forces.

Nuclear Warheads

SIPRI (Stockholm International Peace Research Institute ) published a report on Monday stating that India and China have both bolstered their nuclear warhead stockpile over the last year. While India has a total of 150 nuclear warheads China has a nuclear stockpile of 320 warheads.