Indian missile success sparks euphoria
India's pride at the successful test of a long-range, nuclear-capable
missile hides weaknesses in strategic military planning that undermine
its global power aspirations, analysts say.
Thursday's launch of the Agni V, which has a range of 5,000
kilometres (3,100 miles) and can carry a one-tonne nuclear payload,
triggered a round of intense, patriotic self-congratulation.
“This launch has given a message to the entire world that India has
the capability to design, develop, build and manufacture missiles of
this class,”said V.K. Saraswat, head of the state-run Defence Research
and Development Organisation.
“We are today a missile power,” Saraswat announced.
This handout received on April 19,
2012 from the Defence Research
and Development Organization
(DRDO) under Indias Defence Ministry
shows a long range missile
being fired off from a mobile
launcher from Wheeler Island, off
the coast of India, in the state of
Orissa. on April 19, 2012 successfully
tested a new long-range Agni V
missile capable of delivering a onetonne
nuclear warhead. AFP
The sense of achievement was not unfounded.
The Agni V is more than 80 percent indigenously developed, and with a
range extending across the whole of China and beyond, it holds the
potential to significantly upgrade India's military deterrent.
“It has been termed a game changer, and in many ways it is a game
changer. It covers the whole of China which was not the case before,”
said strategic missile expert P.K. Ghosh.
But while acknowledging the technological achievement, a number of
analysts noted it was just a tiny step towards achieving any military
parity with its giant regional rival.
“We are still way behind China. In terms of missile numbers, range
and quality, they are way ahead of us,” said C. Raja Mohan, a security
analyst and senior fellow at the Centre for Policy Research, a policy
think-tank in Delhi.
Mohan also argued that there was too much focus on 'demonstration'
launches, which only proved that India's missile policy was led by the
scientific community rather than the government and military
“We can all wrap ourselves in the flag today, but there's a dearth of
real strategy on how to actually deploy missile technology,” he said.
The Agni V remains some way from actually being inducted into the
Experts said it would require four or five more tests to confirm its
flight path, accuracy and overall competence, before production could
Rahul Bedi, a consultant with global security analysts IHS Jane's,
said India's political leadership had failed to capitalise on the
technological breakthroughs of its scientists.
“India's nuclear deterrence lacks political foresight and
understanding of its employment primarily because of the politicians'
limited understanding ofstrategic matters,” Bedi said.
“The euphoria over Agni V's success will abate fast if not followed
by firming up this dissuasive deterrence capability that has only been
demonstrated today, not confirmed,” he added.
Agni, which means 'fire' in Sanskrit, is the name given to a series
of rockets India developed as part of its ambitious integrated guided
missile development project launched in 1983.
While the shorter-range Agnis I and II were mainly developed with
traditional rival Pakistan in mind, later versions with a range of 3,500
kilometres are perceived as China-centric deterrents.
India and China, each with a population of more than one billion,
have prickly relations and a legacy of mistrust that stems from a brief
but bloody border war in 1962.
The Chinese foreign ministry said Thursday it had taken note of the
Agni launch, and downplayed any sense of rivalry between the neighbours.
“China and India are both big emerging countries. We are not rivals but
cooperation partners,” foreign ministry spokesman Liu Weimin told