China now bigger threat than Pak: IAF chief

Taking China’s dramatic military expansion seriously, the Indian Air Force chief has said China poses a more real and potent threat to India than Pakistan, which remains caught in a vortex of conflict and instability.

Talking to HT, Air Chief Marshal Fali Homi Major said India was rapidly upgrading its fighter bases in the country’s northeast to boost its military deterrence against China.

“China is a totally different ballgame compared to Pakistan,” the air chief said. “We know very little about the actual capabilities of China, their combat edge or how professional their military is…they are certainly a greater threat.”

The comments are bound to lend urgency to the new government’s China agenda and the need to understand the security implications of the rapidly modernising Chinese military.

The Chinese air force is ridding itself of obsolete platforms from the 1960s such as the J-6 and J-7 (equivalent to MiG-19s and MiG-21s). The People’s Liberation Army Air Force is pushing full steam ahead with the induction of first-rate fighter jets such as Sukhoi-30s, JF-17 Thunder light combat aircraft, J-10 strike fighters, airborne early warning aircraft and midair refuellers to expand the operating radius of its fighter jets.

“The way he (China) is growing, he definitely has the capability. But we should neither put China on a pedestal and say it will chew us up nor lose sight of the fact that they have (acquired) huge capabilities,” Major said.