Wednesday, February 1, 2023
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Indian Army now world’s largest ground force as China halves strength on modernisation push

While the Indian Army is bearing the burden of a large personnel driven force, the Chinese are in the midst of a massive modernisation.

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New Delhi: With approximately 1.4 million personnel, the Indian Army has become the world’s largest ground force, pulling ahead of China, which cut down its strength by half and is instead focusing on its navy, air force and technology.

According to the Defence of Japan 2019 report, released late last year, China has the third largest ground force in the world following India and North Korea, with approximately 9,80,000 personnel.

The Peoples’ Liberation Army (PLA) was always regarded as the largest army in the world with an approximate strength of two million soldiers.

India, which has been keenly watching the PLA’s modernisation, is just in the initial stages of building a leaner and modern technology-enabled force as envisioned by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2015.

However, while China has been working on a massive modernisation of its force, India’s modernisation plans for its large personnel-driven force have been stalled by a cash crunch and a constantly increasing pension.

The Indian Army has so far carried out four transformation studies and is working on trimming its force by about 1.5 lakh personnel, which could take a minimum of five years.

Also read: The 3 major reforms for Indian Army restructuring and what they will mean for the force

China’s head start

Chinese president Xi Jinping had in 2015 announced the downsizing of the PLA to make the force leaner and reliant on modern warfare.

The unprecedented reform began in November that year during which the focus shifted to technology for cyber and space and futuristic weapons besides giving a greater emphasis on building up the PLA’s Navy and the Air Force.

“Since 1985, China has continuously sought to modernize its military by curtailing the number of personnel and streamlining organizations and systems through reforms, including those currently being implemented, in order to improve operational capabilities … China has rapidly modernized its missile forces in recent years,” the Japanese military document said.

Also read: PLA SSF: Why China will be ahead of everyone in future cyber, space or information warfare

PLA ground forces cut by half

In January 2020, the state-run Xinhua news agency reported that China had cut the size of its land-based PLA by about 50 per cent and significantly boosted its navy and air force as part of an “unprecedented” strategic shift designed to transform its army into a comprehensive modern force.

The report indicated that the four other branches of the PLA — the navy, air force, rocket force and strategic support force, which is responsible for areas such as cyberwarfare — together make up more than half of the Chinese military, overtaking the army, which has traditionally been the dominant unit of the PLA, the South China Morning Post reported.

Shanghai-based military analyst Ni Lexiong was quoted by the newspaper as saying that the overhaul marked a significant strategic shift from having a homeland-based defensive force to one with the capacity to allow Beijing to flex its muscles beyond its national borders and to protect its interests overseas.

“He explained that modern warfare puts a greater emphasis on superiority in areas such as the air, space and cyberspace — further reducing the importance of the ground force,” the report said.

India’s military has been in the process of operationalising cyber and space commands for several years now. It also lags behind in incorporating future weapons while China and other countries such as US and Russia are way ahead.

Also read: Gen Naravane’s Chanakya neeti for future wars will require India to spend money smartly


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  1. Well..we need the personnel as if we have less personnel we wouldn’t be able to stand out to China and Pakistan. But we need to modernize and increase
    Our military budget. Taxation needs to be increased and everyone should pay tax as in India only 2percent of the population pays tax. 2percent is too little. Our taxation system needs to change. We need to assign private companies to make lots of good tech for the military and increase buying of new and technologically advanced weapons. Our education system needs to be better. We need more money and that happens when people pay tax truthfully and the taxation system allows majority of the pppulation to pay tax. USA is already way ahead and China is following.

  2. I just read a comment which says that quantity doesn’t matter , quality does. I would just like to address to the person that even quality of Our Indian Army is of appreciable excellence . The thing is with increasing population the resources are becoming scarce which makes it difficult to reciprocate in a optimum way . But I Am sure our army is still very worthy to stay on one of the best armies list in the world . It is worth defending our population despite of comparative less technology than other nations like Russia , China & USA. Also it is not official yet that India is on the top of largest armies or not .

  3. As long as we have the brain drain we will continue to have this problem. Moreover, the skills are to be given precedence over some welfare system nation’s growth and security. The people of India enjoys more freedom than what they deserve, leading to frequent protest against everything without applying their wisdom.

    The parliament is ensured that it does not function. I have not seen any healthy discussion in the parliament except rushing to the well and throwing papers .

    We need to get rid may things in India to make at par or supercede other nations.

  4. Opinion/ argument of the writer are welcome provided government to include buracracy are as efficient as China and Japan secondly technology can beat technology not number s history should guide us while we take such strategies decision Which will have serious remifications for existence of this country…we must come out of nehruvian mind set..

  5. It is not the size of the Dog that counts, but the size of the FIGHT that counts.
    Also, QUALITY and not QUANTITY .

  6. Pension should not be given to persons of short service comission,many ppl leave army after few years and get must work in army for at least 15-20 yrs to get pension.

  7. There are many unfilled vacancies in the CAPFs. Indian Army could send its surplus manpower to Border guarding CAPFs and shed all its body fat. Indian Army must bring down the mean age of its fighting personnel to 24 to 26 yrs and average age of its officers to 30 to 33 yrs.

    • CAPF on the contrary are not needed, they are nothing but ROZGAR YOJANA. Instead of curtailing the Army numbers useless forces like BSF, ITBP, SSB should be disbanded and CRPF and CISF should be combined.

  8. Army, if insufficient, has a partner. The Danda Jhanda party wears full pants now but the dhanda is the same and they can police the Indian-Pakistan border-If allowed., claims their General in Nagpur.

  9. What’s the point of having a large army when you can’t even equip them properly and nor can you pay them. Babu and politician nexus keeps the armed forces weak on purpose to prevent a coup. That’s stupid thinking. They play with the security of the nation and that’s treason.

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