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India air force chief says wary of China's military

May 28, 2009

Reuters
May 24, 2009

NEW DELHI, May 24 (Reuters) - India faces a
greater threat from China than Pakistan because
New Delhi knows little about Beijing's combat
capabilities, India's air force chief told a
newspaper in an interview published on Sunday.

The world's two most populous nations fought a
brief but brutal war over their 3,500 km (2,200
mile) Himalayan border in 1962, and both sides
claim the other is occupying big but largely
uninhabited chunks of their territory.

India has also been pursuing closer relations
with the United States, something that worries China.

China has a standing army almost three times the
size of Pakistan's, according to official figures
and defence industry estimates, but it is the
lack of knowledge about China's military that
concerned Air Chief Marshal Fali Homi Major. "We
know very little about the actual capabilities of
China, their combat edge or how professional
their military is," Major told the Hindustan Times newspaper.

"They are certainly a greater threat."

India and Pakistan have fought three wars since
independence in 1947 and tensions between the
nuclear-armed neighbours rose sharply after last
November's Mumbai attack, which killed 166
people. A slow-moving peace process was paused after the attack.

Islamabad has acknowledged that the attack was
launched from and partly planned in Pakistan, but
rejected New Delhi's accusations that the gunmen
had support from official Pakistani agencies.

Although India and China have signed a treaty to
maintain "peace and tranquility" along their
disputed frontier and agreed to find a political
solution to the row, talks have hardly made
progress even as their business ties boom.

India blames the lack of progress on China's
claim over the northeastern state of Arunachal
Pradesh, in particular over its Buddhist enclave
of Tawang. New Delhi says it cannot part with
populated areas to settle the border dispute.

Major said the Indian air force was upgrading
about five airbases, of which two would operate
Russian Su-30 MKI fighters. (Reporting by
Krittivas Mukherjee; Editing by Paul Tait)
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