India and China went to war in 1962 over the same Himalayan region where at least 20 soldiers were killed Monday night in a bloody confrontation between the two sides.
A little under six decades ago, one month of combat resulted in a Chinese military victory, with Beijing declaring a cease-fire after securing de facto control of Aksai Chin, an area claimed by both countries. The month-long battle claimed the lives of around 700 Chinese troops and approximately double that on the Indian side.
But the militaries that face off in the Himalayas today are far different from those that fought 58 years ago.
Conventional wisdom has it that China holds a significant military advantage over India, but recent studies from the Belfer Center at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government in Boston and the Center for a New American Security in Washington suggest India maintains an edge in high-altitude mountainous environments, such as the one where the 2020 face-off is taking place.
No one expects the fresh tensions to explode into nuclear war, but the fact that both China and India have become nuclear powers since their previous encounter cannot be ignored when assessing the balance of power.
Beijing became a nuclear power in 1964 and India in 1974.
Figures released this week by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIRPI) estimate China has approximately 320 nuclear warheads — more than double India’s 150. Both powers have seen their arsenals grow in the past year, Beijing’s by 40 warheads and New Delhi’s by 10, according to SIRPI.
Both countries maintain a triad of delivery systems — missiles, bombers and submarines. Both also ascribe to a “no first use” policy, however, meaning they’ve pledged only to use nuclear arms in retaliation to a nuclear attack on their county.
India has about 270 fighters and 68 ground-attack aircraft it could bring to bear in combat with China, according to a study published in March by the Belfer Center.
Read more at CNN