You know, I saw that interview of the retired general, and found one or two oft repeated misconceptions in it.
For one, there is this tendency to give the best case scenario for chinese military power as far as the numbers are concerned and the very opposite for Indian equipment holdings.
I'll just stick to one metric. In the interview the general talks about the chinese having 2500 3rd and 4th generation fighters in the future ( 2020?) whereas we would have just 500. Now this is a gross exaggeration. They do not have that number even today ( more like 1700-1900), and we still have 650-750 fighters.
Chinese serviceability numbers are probably lower than ours and they too will have to retire a lot of their F-7s( Mig 21s) and older J-8s by 2020. They also have not exercised with any real modern airforces.
In all likelihood they will probably opt for a force of 1200-1400 fighters , half of which will be flankers and the rest made up of J-10s and J-8 upgrades and some late model J-7s. In fact , the flanker figure is a bit dubious, as heavy fighters of this class are rather expensive to operate and this was also one of the reasons why even the USAF kept pushing down the F-22 figure which was of course replacing the F-15. During the cold war only a superpower America could afford a fleet of 600-700 F-15 class aircraft. It is highly unlikely that the CAF ( formerly PLAAF
) will be able to do the same without diverting money that could be spent elsewhere.
On the other hand , we'll have atleast 270 flankers, 110-120 ( Mig -29s and Mirage 2000s), 100 MRCA, 120 LCA , 120 Mig-21s and 150-200 Jags and Mig 27s by 2020 with hopefully PAK-FA units coming in to counter the purported fifth generation Chinese fighter that they will try to induct by then..
So a total of 870-930 IAF units will face down 1200-1400 CAF units in 2020. Now obviously the last statement is misleading given the IAF's commitments vis a vis Pakistan and the CAF's commitments vis a vis the ROCAF/VPAF/JASDF . Moreover despite all the runway lengthening and new bases, the CAF will remain constrained in Tibet. There is no point denying it. it is the possible use of a myanmarese air corridor with Flankers( refuelled) that is a bigger source of worry. Then there is also EW/ tactics/ training/ NCW etc.
If we keep growing at 8-10 per cent a year, the chinese threat is manageable since we will have more than enough money to build the basic minimum required to build deterrence.
See this is something else that people need to realize when they make comparisons. Given the nature of warfare there is no need to assume that if x can spend less relative to y, the former necessarily has no chance.
I disagree with this. I instead rely on the notion of a threshold capability- i.e the point at which an economy relative to its rivals can generate enough security complexes to deter aggression- India has that today. Naturally this keeps changing as the others grow, so we need to keep growing as well.
Also, it would do well to remember, that when the cold war was on, The Soviets were more than a little concerned about west germany's military capability. since even though it was much smaller, it was still quite capable due to technology and human resources. Add to that tactical nuclear support from NATO and it was seen as a formidable adversary and deterrence held.
finally, as a retired air chief said in a recent interview - the Indian mind will always be superior to its chinese counterpart.