ICBM should be made operational: Analysts

ICBM should be made operational: Analysts

Even though the successful launch of India's first inter-continental ballistic missile Agni-V provides New Delhi with a strategic deterrence capability to match up China, the nuclear-tipped ICBM should be made operational at the earliest so that the deterrence comes into play, strategic analysts say.

The 5000 km range ICBM with capability to launch multiple warheads, however, is unlikely to trigger an arms race in the South Asia as India’s nuclear doctrine stipulates only maintaining a “minimum credible deterrence” rather than any offensive campaign, the authorities here felt.

“It was a technology demonstrator. We must now be in greater hurry in operationalising it so that the deterrence (second strike capability) comes into play,” Air Chief Marshal (Rtd) S K Tyagi, former chief of the Indian Air Force told Deccan Herald.

“Previously we had missiles with limited range. Agni-5 gives strategic deterrence parity as it provides the same range and clout as Chinese missiles have,” said Bharat Karnad, professor at the Centre for Policy Research in Delhi.

Comparing Agni-V first successful launch with the 1974 nuclear tests in Pokhran, Tyagi said Pokhran-I was a technology demonstrator and India had to wait till 1998 to become a nuclear weapon state. “We should give more thrust in the missile programme,” he said.

After the launch, Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) Chief V K Saraswat stated that the organisation planned to carry out two more successful tests before handing it over to the Indian Army.

The nuclear-capable road-mobile missile can reach out to almost the entire Asia, East Europe up to the Russian coast in the north and close to the coast lines of Australia and South Africa. The target range, however, varies depending on the lunch site.

Arguing for a proactive foreign and military policy, Karnad said: “If the government has a proactive foreign and military policy, the missile provides power to the Indian government to emerge as the net security provider for a host of countries living in China’s periphery. This reflects a far more confident India.”

Tyagi, however, pointed out that India should not get involved in providing a nuclear security umbrella to others because India’s nuclear doctrine is “defensive”, whose underlying spirit is a world free from nuclear weapons.

“There is no reason why it should start an arms race. The missile offers deterrent capability. It allows India to reach most parts of China, which was not possible with Agni-III (of 3,500 km range),” said Rajaram Nagappa, visiting professor of International Strategic and Security Studies programme at the National Institute of Advanced Studies, Bangalore.

Reacting to India’s missile test, the spokesperson at Chinese Foreign Ministry took a soft line, while a state-controlled newspaper went ballistic against it.

On Wednesday when the Agni-V launch was originally scheduled, the US praised New Delhi for its track record on non-proliferation. “We urge all nuclear-capable states to exercise restraint regarding nuclear capabilities. That said, India has a solid non-proliferation record,” State Department spokesman Mark Toner said, ahead of the test.

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