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July 20, 2017

Essay : India's Missile Options

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India's Missile Options

Synopsis : The strategic position and situation demand that India develops and deploys its missiles at the earliest because time is the essence. The development and deployment of Prithvi is a right step but it is not enough. The Western Powers are never happy at the country's self-sufficiency in defence matters and have always been trying arm-twisting and are indulging in anti-India propaganda. India should never be pressurized and soon develop the strategic weapon Agni in the face of security
dangersfivm missiles already deployed in Pakistan and China. Agni options need to be revived and the weapon be made operational. Such a deterrent is a must amidst missile proliferation in the sub-continent. India should also develop its own intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) for future preparation weapons. India's deployable missile capabilities must be transformed into deployed capacities. India has a strong indigenous missile capability and it would be nothing short of a catastrophe if its Agni program is shelved or put on bold to be activated at some future date. 
In view of its huge size, its very long international borders, coastline and strategic position in South Asia, India cannot afford to neglect, put on hold or abandon its missile development program. It should be continued and taken to its logical conclusion and missiles deployed. India has developed the Prithvi missiles which have a range of 150 km. to 250 km. This 8.5 metre short range surface-to-surface missile has now been inducted into the Indian army after its successful completion of trials in 1994. But there has been constant pressure on India from the West not to deploy it in spite of the fact that Pakistan has acquired Chinese M-11 missiles with matching capabilities.

The Western military powers have been deliberately creating tension in the sub-continent by spreading rumours from time to time. Recently, a selected western media falsely reported that India has deployed Prithvi missiles in Jalandhar, near Pakistani border. These "media missiles" being fired from the West are dangerous and create tension in the region. In this regard the Defence Minister had said on July 12, 1997 that the country had spent huge sums on the project. Scientists had been working for the last 14 years to make the nation self-reliant and independent, "Prithvi has not been prepared," he said, "to be kept in museums, we have not yet deployed it on the Pakistani border. We will decide where to deploy it and when." These words are really reassuring but in regard to Agni missile the Government has created an impression that it is just a sleeping giant and will be awakened and activated when the need arises. 

There should not be any laxity or complacency in defence matters. We should not forget the lessons of Chinese aggression and our humiliating defeat in 1962. In the face of Pakistan's flexing of its missile muscles, it becomes imperative that India expeditiously develops and deploys Agni missile, a medium range ballistic missile. Agni is an intermediate range ballistic surface-to-surface missile with a range capability up to 2,500 km. It was first test fired on May 22, 1989. Thus, India became the fifth nation in the world to have developed this type of missile after the US, Russia, France and China. New Delhi should wake up to the threat to our security and safety from across the borders. The Haft series of missiles have been developed with Chinese help and assistance. Pakistan has been working on these since 1980 and now she has successfully test fired Haft-3 missile, a long range ballistic missile. 

India's defence preparedness seems to be in a sorry state. Defence budgetary allocations have not been adequate. The defence expenditure has actually decreased by 24 percent in the past 7-8 years while those of Pakistan and China have appreciably increased. The defence committee report feels sorry that Government has shelved the Agni program. Agni can be the only real deterrent in the Indian arsenal with long range capability going up to Tibet in China. It is imperative to maintain the strategic balance in the South East Asia. The Agni needs to be deployed and made operational soon. In the face of grave missile threat from Pakistan and China, India cannot afford to go slow or shelve the project. Pakistan's Haft missiles, named after the Prophet's sword, coupled with other M-15 missiles are far more advanced than our missile Prithivi. Pakistani missiles can hurl 500-kilo payload for up to 600 km. Obviously, Agni options need to be revived immediately. 

India should not be pressurized by the western super-powers in this matter. India should remove the imbalance in the sub-continent by having a matching missile regime to that of Pakistan and China. Such a deterrent is necessary amidst missile proliferation in the sub-continent. Experts believe that India should not only develop and deploy Agni missiles, but also begin a meaningful program for developing its own intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). Besides 5 nuclear powers, India is only one of the three countries who was in a position to develop and deploy ICBM in a reasonable time. The other 2  countries are Israel and Japan. It takes over 10-14 years to develop and deploy a missile like Agni for a country like India. India's space launch capabilities can be used for developing ICBMs but it requires strong determination and singleness of purpose besides huge funds. 

China is busy upgrading its medium range missiles with newer mobile systems designed to hit targets in India, Russia, Taiwan, Japan and other parts of East Asia. "China's IRBM forces translate into overwhelming strategic leverage in Asia," said US defence specialist, Richard Fisher. According to him Chinese medium range missiles, including a future variant of CSS-5 called Mod-2, are designed to provide strategic dominance over East Asia. The CSS-2, a liquid fuel missile with a range of about 1,922 miles, is being replaced in some deployment areas with the mobile, solid-propellant CSS-5 Mod 1, with a range of about 1,333 miles. China could use these weapons to threaten nations in South-east Asia including India. China has not only been selling missiles to Pakistan but is also helping it in their manufacturing. That is why Pakistan could successfully test fire Haft 3 missile, a medium range weapon with a range up to 800 km. just in 6 years, while it took India 14 years to develop Prithvi. Pakistan's link with China on strategic weapons system has been many years old. China provided Pakistan with the design of its third nuclear test and in later years with short and medium range missiles. 

It is high time that India is aware of these strategic developments and gives up to go slow on its integrated guided missile development program. India's 'deployable' rather than 'deployed' missile system capabilities are deplorable. Missile is the right weapon to defend and to attack and to work as an effective deterrent. India has a strong and indigenous missile capability and it should be suitably exploited. It would be regrettable if India succumbs to pressure from the U.S. or any other country and loses the advantage in terms of time, technology and know-how. 

India's tireless efforts are on in order to strengthen its wide-ranging pursuit of ballistic and cruise missiles capability. The brave submarine-launched ballisitic missiles in February 2008 is a witness to the world. Apart from its ballistic missile arsenal, India has inducted the BrahMos supersonic cruise missile, the product of an Indian-Russian joint venture, into its armed forces.

shared by Nisheeta Mirchandani
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