New Delhi: India’s air force is just a third the size of rival China’s and far short of the aircraft required to meet the security challenges it faces, the country’s air force chief said on Wednesday.
“Our present aircraft strength is inadequate. Aircraft strength is one third that of China,” said Air Chief Marshal P.V. Naik was quoted as saying by the CNN-IBN website on Wednesday.
“The government of India is doing a lot to augment air force capability,” he said in a speech in Gandhinagar.
The comments come against the backdrop of media reports about Chinese army and air “incursions” into India in the past several weeks that have been denied by both New Delhi and Beijing.
The Asian giants and economic rivals have yet to agree on their more than 4,000 kilometre (2,480 mile) border, the dispute over which dates back to a brief but bitter conflict in 1962 that exposed India’s military vulnerability.
India says China occupies 38,000 square kilometres (14,670 square miles) of its territory, while Beijing claims 90,000 square kilometres or the whole of the northeastern Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh.
Naik said there were two ways to counter China’s reported incursions.
“One way is to take up weapons and go to the border. The other way is to build systematic weapons capability to tackle the threat,” he said.
Naik’s remarks follow similar ones by former navy chief Sureesh Mehta, who last month said India could not compete with China on defence spending and warned Beijing was “creating formidable military capabilities”.
India has begun trials of the world’s leading fighter jets as it prepares to place an order for 126 planes in a contract worth $12 billion dollars.