Can India defeat China in a full fledged War?


India and China are eye to eye and it has never been so close to war that it is now. Indian army and Chinese army are in the longest standoff and we are publishing some great opinions on the topic. Let us start analyzing what will happen if India and China are on a full fledged war.

Define “Defeat”.

Let us look at a few different terms for defeat, each one with its own various conditions. I’m ignoring international relations-whoever starts a war gets hit with a massive trade war and ruins their own economy. Militarily, the two powers are too far away from anyone else (Russia is close, but that’s Siberia rather than Western Russia).

Additionally, nuclear weapons are out of the picture. India has a no 1st strike policy, and China’s missiles, which are largely on trucks, are designed for retaliation, rather than a first strike.

#1) A full on conquest of China. China is annexed by India.

Verdict: Utterly and completely impossible.

China has arguably the second most powerful military on Earth. It has more manpower than any other nation, a gargantuan industrial base, a nationalistic and relatively united populace, and pretty advanced technology. India is extremely powerful as well, with a large military and advanced navy, but it is still somewhat inferior to that of China’s.

India and China joint exercise

Lets just ignore all of that for one moment. Give China, say, a military of 150,000 people and a few tanks, ships, and jets. Give India, on the other hand, a huge industrial base, all the oil it could ever need and the entire US and Russian militaries.

Give India a few Imperial II Star Destroyer’s and Darth Vader himself if you really want. It cannot happen. Because of this.

That is the mighty Himalaya, largest mountain range on Earth, with a few 20,000+ foot high peaks conveniently sitting between China, India, Nepal, and Bhutan.

Tell me with a straight face that you can get a 5 million strong army, with all of the logistical support and everything, over THIS, while getting constantly harassed by a deadly combination of Chinese troops and environmentalists. As if that was not enough, look at this:

That gray area? Gargantuan, barren, and pretty much inhospitable. You can’t “Live off the land” in Central and Western China. To get to the relevant parts of China (sorry for anyone who lives in Central/Southwest China) you need to cross a thousand kilometers, then deal with a huge, pissed off population. Good luck.

#2) Defeating a Chinese invasion of India.

Verdict: Nearly certain Indian victory.

Imagine all of the problems I described above, but in reverse.

That is what China would face to send troops into India.

Hardly any military bases are remotely close to the Indian border. You would need to somehow supply an army marching over Tibet, before invading two sovereign nations (Nepal and Bhutan), crossing a massive mountain range, and, if that wasn’t enough, you now have the gargantuan Indian military of 1.4 million people to deal with, and a relatively nationalistic and pissed off populace.

Additionally, most of China’s oil flows through here:

Meaning that India can cut of Chinese oil with relative ease and wreak havoc on their economy. China won’t have a fun time trying to invade India, and they get beat back before they can even start.

#3) A proxy war, involving Pakistan (backed by China) and India.

Verdict: India wins.

Throwing out the possibility of Pakistan just hurling its entire nuclear arsenal at India, causing a nuclear war that kills 400 million people, there is no way that Pakistan can do much of anything, even with Chinese backing.

This link gives a comparison, with numbers. Both militaries are very powerful, but India has a clear edge in pretty much every category.

It has more of basically everything, and 6 times the number of people. It can mobilize a human tidal wave, and send it crashing into Islamabad with relative ease. Chinese support won’t help here, unless China deploys 500,000 troops to Pakistan before Pakistan gets crushed.

Major Pakistani population centers lie close to the Indian border. India’s superior navy can easily blockade Pakistan. Pakistan won’t get anywhere, and could very well be annexed fully.

Final Thoughts

TLDR: Nobody can win a direct, “fully fledged war”. Logistics and terrain, thankfully, have kept the two powers relatively out of each others way for the past 50 or so years, and would end any military campaign with ease. India would beat Pakistan if China tries that route to defeat India.

A border skirmish is different. If 1962 repeats itself, the outcome depends on training and number of troops. We haven’t really seen both militaries in action for a number of years, so a skirmish is really a coin flip at this point.

This answer was written on Quora by Nikhil Murali. You can follow his blog his foreign policy blog here.