India’s Missile

India finally entered an exclusive club of a very few nations who have the technology for ICBMs (Inter-Continental Ballistic Missiles) earlier this week, when it successfully test-fired the AGNI V missile capable of reaching a distance of 5,000 KMs.

The message to the world – India just keeps trying ! Whether the rest of the developed world helps it nor not, India will just keep trying and slowly improving ! Exactly like the elephant !!

One day, India will have an array of operationally ready missiles in thousands of numbers (like what the developed countries possess) and will be asked to join the Missile Control Treaty and reduce its arsenal – that date is probably a decade away. Unfortunately, in the high stakes world of international diplomacy, nothing works better than credible threat deterrence. The U.S. and the erstwhile U.S.S.R. demonstrated to the world how powerful was the principle of deterrence.

India is a slow learner. Over the last 5 years or so, it has realised that self-sufficiency could not be achieved by indigenous research and development only. So, it started buying more defense hardware from established supplier countries with the cooperation of the respective governments – such as Russia, the U.K., Israel and the U.S. However, it also came to the conclusion that these countries will not hand over very critical technologies as part of large deals (which has been the demand of India for a long time), where there is a joint venture production being set up in India.

So, what is the big point when you cannot own the crucial technology that might be denied in any eventuality ?

So, India adopted multi-pronged approach to its defense preparedness. While it is always scandal-ridden, defense procurement in India is today far more refined and regulated than it ever was. One part of the strategy was to develop a range of AGNI missiles. Several such missiles for various distances have been developed, tested, productionized and stocked.

But the feather in the cap is the AGNI V. Its actual range could be in excess of 8,000 KMs. And, it will now become easier for India to develop even a missile which can reach 10,000 KMs or more, using indigenous technology. It is not inconceivable that India might eventually become an outsourced destination for developed countries to manufacture missiles !

So, this has been a proud milestone for India, notwithstanding the fact that there have been many failures in the past. India still does not have any long-distance missile that can be launched from submarines. India lacks many other key elements of an overarching defense strategy, but it has now understood the need for implementing one unified strategy and is apparently taking a multitude of targeted procurement and actions.

What India now needs is an increase in budget allocation for further missile development and testing. Hope the government will give more money to the missile folks. India needs to defend its borders and missiles are an integral part of its defense, including anti-missile and anti-satellite mechanisms.

Let us hope that the investment continues !


Vijay Srinivasan
21st April 2012


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