A tense Sino-Indian border standoff last year stirred speculation about what might happen if the two nuclear-armed Asian giants went to war.
Beijing and New Delhi have shelved their differences for now, but the potential for a future clash remains. This is nudging military analysts to theorize about the outcome of a possible face-off between Indian and Chinese forces along the Himalayan frontier and on the Indian Ocean. The relevancy of such assessments is heightened by Washington’s pursuit of a new Indo-Pacific strategy that views India as a counter-weight to China’s ambitions in the region.
On the naval end, attention focuses on a possible confrontation between China’s new aircraft carrier battle group and a similar Indian carrier force. Both navies have more flat tops under construction and boast hunter-killer and nuclear-armed ballistic missile submarines.
However, those expecting a Midway-like clash of aircraft carriers will likely be disappointed.
Defense expert Ben Ho Wan Beng says that a Sino-Indian naval conflict, if it happens, will be a highly cautious, defensive affair punctuated by hit-and-run attacks resembling 1982’s Falklands War between Argentina and Britain.
Unlike in the South China Sea, China has no friendly air bases in the Indian Ocean. Any Chinese carriers deployed to the region will only be able to defend themselves with a relatively meager air wing, according to Ho, a naval analyst with the Military Studies Program at Singapore’s S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies.
Ho published an analysis titled ‘How Might China Fight a Sino-Indian Naval War?’ in late January in IAPS Dialogue, the online magazine of the Institute for Asia & Pacific Studies.
The People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) vastly outnumbers India’s — by four times, or roughly 283 vs. 66 major surface ships, not counting subs. But Ho and other analysts argue that India has the advantage of fighting close to home bases, while China faces the “tyranny of distance” that dogged British ships in the Falklands.
“Numbers seldom if ever tell the whole story in marine combat,” US Naval War College Professor James Holmes commented in an August Foreign Policy piece on the outcome of a possible Sino-Indian naval conflict.
Both China and India also operate carriers with relatively small “jump decks.” This limits the complement of fighters that can be carried, along with the amount of ordnance that can be launched with individual planes. Ho says this also cuts the proportion of planes that can be allocated for attack as opposed to defense.
It’s also likely that China would deploy only one carrier battle group against India due to competing strategic priorities in the western Pacific. “The Chinese carrier group would essentially be on its own,” Ho told Asia Times in an email interview.
If China deploys a carrier group, Ho says the force will likely operate with a high degree of circumspection because of the enormous odds it faces so far from home. It will also be leery of deploying its carrier close to India’s coast, where it will be vulnerable to anti-access/area-denial weapons.
The Indians, egged on by public opinion, would try to find and attack the Chinese carrier group. But Ho argues this would be problematic given the vast expanses of the Indian Ocean where the Chinese can play cat and mouse. Both nations lack very advanced satellite reconnaissance that can pinpoint enemy ships, although China is closing the gap with new tracking technology.
“While the Indian MiG-29K is lighter and more maneuverable, the Chinese J-15’s serviceability rate is better and this means that more of them can be brought into action at any one time”
Ho adds that India’s land-based aircraft and mostly diesel-electric submarines would likewise face operational limits in finding fast-moving Chinese carriers in the open sea.
In the end, Chinese subs may see more action in a conflict where they’re likely to deploy near major Indian ports and naval facilities, Ho says.
Warplanes based in mainland China may also face trouble providing air support for a carrier group since they must overfly India-sensitive nations like Bangladesh and Myanmar to reach the Indian Ocean.
Moreover, China’s much-vaunted DF-21D anti-ship missile may prove useless against Indian carriers. It must be fired from land and there is no ship-based version.
The challenge for the DF-21D and other anti-ship missiles, according to Ho, is that a target carrier force moving at a typical speed of about 20 knots would have moved to another location a few kilometers away from its point of detection by the time a missile is finally launched.
The DF-21D reportedly has sensors to track moving targets at sea. But Ho contends this capability hasn’t been proven — even in drills.
‘Midway’ in Malacca Strait?
Ho says the only possibility for a 21st-century Battle of Midway would be if India tries to interdict a Chinese force as it sails through the narrow Malacca Strait. “But this course of action could elicit a strong pushback not just from the littoral states of Malaysia, Indonesia, and Singapore, but also the international community, given the economic importance of that waterway,” Ho said.
Chinese vs. Indian carriers
China currently has one operational carrier, the Liaoning, a refitted Soviet-era ship purchased from Russia and an indigenously built Type 001A that may be launched this year. Beijing reportedly has plans to build several more. But Ho notes that its latest Type 001A boasts only a slightly larger air wing than the Liaoning’s 20 combat aircraft, consisting of Shenyang J-15 fighters. An American Nimitz-class carrier, in contrast, carries well over 40 strike fighters.
India has one carrier, the INS Vikramaditya, in active service today. Another, the INS Vikrant, is fitting out and is expected to be commissioned in 2020. Each ship carries a little more than twenty fixed-wing aircraft, not counting helicopters.
The Vikramaditya is a modified Kiev-class aircraft carrier which entered into service with the Indian Navy in 2013. It served with the Soviet Navy during the Cold War, was bought by India in 2004 and underwent years of refitting. It’s equipped with Russian MiG-29K fighters. The Vikrant is the first carrier to be built in India.
J-15 vs. MiG-29
Comparing China’s J-15 to India’s MiG 29K, Ho says: “On paper, both aircraft’s combat attributes are fairly evenly matched. While the Indian MiG-29K is lighter and more maneuverable, the Chinese J-15’s serviceability rate is better and this means that more of them can be brought into action at any one time.”
But pilot competency is another matter. Critics have questioned the quality of China’s still unproven fighter pilots vs. India’s, who train with and are said to compare favorably with US ones. Others say China is closing the training gap.
Would China accelerate the hunt for friendly bases in Indian Ocean nations like the Maldives if it felt its carriers were out on a limb? China is expanding its strategic footprint and ties in the region. A new naval base in Djibouti in the Horn of Africa and reports of another in Gwadar in Pakistan are examples. But Ho says a permanent Chinese military presence in India-sphere nations such as the Maldives or Sri Lanka is unlikely due to push-back from New Delhi.
What a stupid article.
First of all, there will be no war, both nation is not stupid enough to do so.
Second of all, this entire article is based on the assumption that China stupidly sends its carrier half way to India. If anything, Chinese carrier would stay at home and China would send in their submarine froce.
Third of all, only one mention of DF-21?? You do know China have the best tactial missile force in the world right? DF-26 and DF-21 will be launching from highland of Tibet and make very short work of all Indian ports.
And lastly there will be no war between both nations so this entire article is a pointless exercise that belong to National Interest.
Please don’t tell me this is your full time job….
This childish stupid article was written by a half jap in order to stir up conflicts in Asia. So obviously wicked.
A stupid article written by a writer coming from a known US stoogy lapdog. And the entire piece quotes from some little known academic named Ho from tiny Singapore who has always speak like they are the most credible and learned source on earth.
This means the author must have gotten other sources but dump them as none gave him the battleground scenario he wants to project out in this lame opinion piece. LOL
I agree, there’ll be no war.
India has enough missiles to make mince meat out of the shiny new Chinese infrastructure.
Having said that, there won’t be a war.
I agree, we asian folks (indians and chinese) should in no way get into a WAR. We are building our countries against all odds, and last thing we need is a war.
Just in case, something bad happens, both India and China will loose militarily, with no winner.
But then, even a thought of war with cute chinese folks, makes me sick.
"Unlike in the South China Sea, China has no friendly air bases in the Indian Ocean."
If China has no "friendly air bases" in the Indian ocean it is due to Beijing no putting enough effort.
Sri Lanka can not only offer strategic ports but air ports as well. The relationship between Sri Lanka and China is centuries old and unlike that with India, Buddhist Sri Lanka’s relationship with China was unbroken.
A bit of background. Sri Lanka is the oldest uninterrupted Buddhist nation in the world. What does that mean? It means when Sri Lanka was converted to Buddhism in 300 BC she remained a Buddhis nation without interruption.
From Sri Lanka Buddhist priests took Buddhism to South East Asia and China. Buddhism also entered China via India. But in the case of India Buddhism died around 1100 AD, not the case with Sri Lanka
While ‘Hindu’ India spent the next several centuries battling Islam, Buddhist Sri Lanka maintained her links with China.
Sri Lanka is not only the oldest uninterrupted Buddhist naton but she gave the Buddhist world the written form of the Tipitaka. The Tipitaka is the Holy book of Buddhism. It was put into writing in the 1st century BC under King Vattagamini. Copies were made and distributed across the Buddhist world, including copies to the famous Buddhist university of Nalanda.
Historically Buddhist Sri Lanka has strong tie to Buddhist China.
Finaly Sri Lanka has an uninerupted written history of herself. That not only sets her apart from neighboring India but shares a bond with China who is the only other nation to have an uninterrupted written history of herself.
China should take advantage of her relationship with Sri Lanka where Buddhism is the common bond.
Why can’t India China be friends? Never fought a war until 1962. Support peace.
LOL now this is really a piece of gem.
Any half intelligent man with a look at the map will know sailing all the way down from China’s coast around ASEAN to do what..blockade the whole Indian continent for any measurable amount of time? is a fool’s errand. Such a plan must have been hatched by self proclamed strategist who’s still in kindergarten…and in diapers…LOL
Also to note, China have, and will contine to have for some time, a very vital economic supply line across the Indian ocean. Any disruption in case of a war will have extreme negative consequences for China itself even if there’s alternatives. It will make sense for China to strengthen its presence to solidify and protect this supply line, but it makes no sense for China to intiiate hostilities to cut herself. There’s a very obvious difference between want to have a presence to protect the life line, FROM wanting to strengthening the presence to cut someone else’s – and yourself at the SAME TIME.
Now with that said, who does not have a vital and important supply line through this route? Mr untrustworthy, trigger happy Uncle Sam.
This is the stupidest comment in this comment section. Buddism itself came from India and geogaphically Sri lanka is a stone throw away from India. Apart from Buddism Indian hindu history Ramayana is also closed linked with Sri lanka. Sri lanka is not only closer to India geographically but the people culture historical linkages are closer with India. Ffs just look at the people of Sri lanka, they look just like Indians and no way look like chinese. For all your wishful thinking Realistically speaking Sri lanka cannot afford to make a enemy of a nation 10 times bigger and at such close proximity. Sri lanka would stay neutral if at all any war happens between china India.
Sri Lanka is an independent soverign nation and there is no "monroe Doctrine" India can hold over Sri Lanka. That Doctrine never worked even with us.
Sri Lanka is not beholden to India after India funded the Tamil Tigers and the 30 year long civil war to form elam.
Valmiki’s Ramayana is a Sanskrit epic written somewhere in N. India for Hindus. It is not even Tamil. and even if it is it has nothing to do with Buddhist Sri Lanka or modern day geo politics.
In Sri Lanka’s 2500 years of history she has never been beholden to India and kept her independence fighting Hindu invasions for centuries.
China never invaded and vandalized Sri Lanka, India did for over 2000 years.
For your information even Nepal which has been part of India on and off is forming her own alliance with China. NO neighbor of India is subservient to her.
Even under the British Empire Sri Lanka was administered separateley. Sri Lanka was a crown colony of the British for a longer time than India was part of the British Empire.
Michael Bagala For your information Nepal was a sovereign country from the very beginning and was never a part of India.Please study the history of Nepal
One more thing. Sinhalese Buddhist kings faced invasion after invasion from Hindu Tamil Kings. Then came Kalingha Magha the Tyrant and his 25 thousand force. they only came to destroy and loot. Kalingha Magha was so vicious that he drove the entire Sinhalese population to the South, where the majority remained. It was due to him that a Tamil Kingdom was established in Jaffna.
As for the 30 year elam wars Colombo repeatedly asked New Delhi for help and was turned down. For good reason because Indira Gandhi not only trained and armed the Tamil Tigers but gave them a navy and an air force
Guess who helped Sri Lanka? Yes China. China helped Colombo while India supported the Tamil Tigers. I think I know a bit more about this issue than you do.
Ngawang Dorji Sherpa
What about the Magadha Empire? Gupta Empire, Mauryan Empire? I am not sure but also the Kushan Empire and also the Mughal Empire (I could be wrong on that one). Please let me know if Nepal was part of any of these "Indian" Empires
When the word greedy is still existing or being used then war is still possible.
Mr. Bagala , you have hardly any knowledge about Indo-lankan affairs & surely no idea of a modern warfare. Why China would if puts its naval combatants in Hambantota which in a few minutes would be devasted by IAF in the first sign of war ?? Further why Srilanka would invite such a catastrophe for itself !! Hambantota is leased to China for civil & commercial use not for military purpose.
One little information about your self-imagined Sino-lankan Buddhist bond is that India provided & still providing & will continue to provide shelter to Dalai Lama & his fellows against Chinease Aggression & the world of Buddhism always thanks India for saving Him from the communists. Lankan Buddhists are lnow different , you can visit Mcllyodganj to see the huge Lankan pilgrimage there round the year. Also Only Lankans & Japanese are allowed to enter Spiti Region ( Where the oldest Indian monasteries are located )without any special permit .
All those arguments are fine, but who wants a war? I am from India and we have enough headaches of our own without going into an unnecessary war with China.
All we will ever see is diplomatic maneauvers and thats best for everyone on this planet.
THIS IS A STUPID WAR MONGER ARTICLE, PROBABLY AN AGENT OR MERCHANT OF DEATH PAID BY THE CIA, WHOSE GOAL IS TO FOMENT TROUBLES EVERYWHERE AS THEY HAVE DONE IN THE PAST. THEIR EVIL INTENT ARE VERY EVIDENT IN THE MIDDLE EAST AND EAST ASIA (PARTICULARLY KOREAN PENINSULA), AND NOW THEY ARE ALSO SCHEMING ANOTHER SCENARIO IN THE INDIAN OCEAN! WAR BETWEEN INDIA AND CHINA IS A VERY REMOTE THING TO HAPPEN, AS FAR OFF AS THE PLANET EARTH TO ANDROMEDA GALAXY!
Presumably this is an op-ed piece intended solely to stimulate debate; casting a brick to attract jade as it were. If it isn’t, then the writer needs to seek alternative employment. And why is it asumed it is the Chinese navy venturing into the Indian Ocean? Why not have the Indian navy going into the South China Sea? Or even China & India major partners anchoring a SE Asian economic & defence bloc against the grasping & rapacious claws of Uncle Sam?
Looks like James Holmes from the mighty US of A started ths drivel way back in August:
Buddhist China! The worst perpetrators of genocide murderers of peaceful Buddhist Tibetans millions fled their home land including the living Buddha DalaiLama who were given shelter in India .Communist China has barred uignyur muslims to pray in mosques keep beards or observe Muslim rituals like Rozas .Chinese have developed Hambantota port for no love lost for Srilanka but for her own strategic and financial interests. Lanka has fallen into a debt trap like Mayanmar Cambodia and Laos to whom they have lent amounts for infra projects whose interest alone runs into million of dollars and when these poor nations cant service the interest on prinncipal China enters the scene to usurp the equity of the project thereby becoming the owners of the asset did ditto in Hambantota making it a colony of China .
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Starting your comment by claiming the other knows little only opens up the debate as to how much you know. The Dalai Lama begged India to come to Tibett’s defense. India refused!
if giving shelter to an exiled government is the best India could do then India is worthless in protecting her neighbors. Tibet has nothing to thank India on that regard, but I agree with you that the Dalai Lama and his exiled government sitting happily in Dharam Sala can thank India for that bit of bread crumb.
Your claim to strategic strikes applies to India’s ports as well . China can strike all of South India from Sri Lanka. Then it is a stand off. India dare not attack Sri Lanka like she did under the Tamil Tigers and so many centuries before that. why? because now Sri Lanka has a mighty naval force in her harbors. Americans call that MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction)
You are under some make belief that the ruins of Anuradhapura just happened. That was due to Indian invasions.
Also keep in mind the British claimed that they can place their entire naval force in the Trincomalee harbor and still have plenty of room to spare. Trincomalee harbor still has the larges oil farm in South Asia
Sri Lankan Buddhism is Hinayana which is the oldest form of Buddhism. Tibetan Buddhism is Vajrayana (Thunderbolt vehicle) and includes Tantra in it. Both are different to each other.
Ram Gandhi Indians rape and kill far more Indians than Pakistani terrorists.
Anil Kumar Sharma
Yes Buddhist China like Christian Russia. After the Soviet Empire collapsed Russian Orthodox Christianity was practically intact, This even after Stalin and his "Holodomor" where over 40 to 60 million Russian and Ukrainians died, where the horrors of the Gulag were explained in Alexandre Solsenitskyn’s "Gulag Achipelago" . Where the name "Stalingrad" was removed and "Petersburg" put back.
There is a Buddhist China that began 2 thousand years ago and continues under Communist rule. To understand that you need to understand how communism worked in the Soviet Union.
As for "love lost or gained’ there is none among nations. Only alliances and rivals. The debt Sri Lanka is in is due to India who ousted Rajapakse when that witch Jayalalithaa was still around and who continued her bigoted attacks on Sri Lanka well after the war ended. She demanded and got Sri Lankan players and visitoreremoved or barred from entering Tamil Nadu. Some were stoned. She hated Rajapakse and set about ousting him from power. That election was so rigged it was worse than any election in India. that is how Sirisena came to power and then got Sri lanka into a massive debt with China. Again it is due to Indian interference and little to do with China.
China’s carriers if ever will aim to deny the use of resources elsewhere in India. India should work to tip the tide in their favor by breaking the chain of pearls now, or develop advanced cost effective anti-ship capabilities for the future.
That is because you may not know enought about this region and your focus is on Uncle Sam. The problem could be you and not the article.
Couple of questions for you:
If India is such a "friend" how come she did not invest in Sri Lanka’s economy? How come she did not develop Sri Lanka’s ports? Why wait till China develops them?
India does not and never did require an aircraft carrier. Entirely unsuited to it’s economy or practical military ambitions. What India needs is several nuclear armed nuclear submarines for deterrence, and tiny bases all over the Lakshadweep, Minicoy and Andamans among which attack submarines, helicopters, multi-role fighters, missiles, reconnaissance come depth charge/torpedo amphibian aircraft, long range torpedo boats, and long range light destroyers can be deployed, moved around and concentrated at will. Backed up with a strong Coast Guard and a distributed fast destroyer and attack submarine home fleet. I have been saying this since the 1970s.
If it is peace you want for China and India…please inform China to withdaw its’ political support from Cambodia. China is killing Cambodia people with its’ political corruption support for the Cambodia government.
Michael Bagala i’m from nepal we all support India and China if war happen we shall be silent
Michael Bagala , is it the case, why Tamil tigers assassinated Rajiv Gandhi, son of Indira Gandhi? Explain us
I do not think the Tamil Tigers did that all by themselves. Tamil Nadu has high level security which for some reason was not there when Rajiv was killed. A Tamil Tiger carried out the job and it could be due to some fall out between Prabhakaran and New Delhi but the power to kill Rajiv has to come from New Delhi too. That is my guess.
If India and China go to war Nepal’s future wil be determined regardless if Nepalese are silent or not.
Easier said than done.India has no rupees
Better write a fairy tale….haha
It appear all says it is a stupid article. But what we are commenting on a stupid article for?
I am glad you are from Nepal but you can only speak for yourself and not the millions of other Nepalis. Unless you were elected to be the "voice of Nepal" yours is your opinion.
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