Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Agni-V boosts India’s defence, morale

It is a matter of satisfaction that the second test-firing of India’s Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile (IRBM) Agni-V went off very smoothly last Monday. The inaugural test launch last year had also been flawless.
The point behind multiple testing is that our armed forces should have the confidence that there will be no operational glitches in the eventuality of having to use this sophisticated weapon system. So there are four more tests planned over the next two years before induction into the Army’s Strategic Command. The effective deterrence value of a missile relies exclusively on it being on target.
Agni-V has a range of 5,000 kms. This brings any city in our difficult neighbourhood within reach and makes for effective deterrence against a potential adversary. It also boosts the capability of the armed forces and the morale of the people.
After the first test-launch of this missile, there was malign speculation in Chinese circles that the Indian missile had a range of 8,000 kms and was in reality an Inter-Continental Ballistic Missile (ICBM). The purpose of the exercise was to raise suspicions in Western Europe and America about the reach of the Indian missile. However, any serious observer of the scene knows that India’s military posture is defensive in nature. In any case, Europe and America are not part of it.
The Agni-V can carry a nuclear or a conventional payload. In the latter case, especially, it will count for something if it is accurate enough to land within 10 metres of the target, not otherwise. This is what needs to be
established in the next two years before the induction of the weapon system by the armed forces.
Along with the Agni series, India has worked on shorter-range missiles — the Prithvi series. These will be required for targets at closer range. But attention also needs to be paid to the development of Multiple Independently Targetable Re-entry Vehicles (MIRVs) that offer a payload containing several warheads, each capable of hitting one of a group of targets. MIRVs have a better chance of beating missile shields.
With nuclear-capable nations in our neighbourhood that are not democracies, Indian security planners have little choice but to keep deterrence capabilities ready. There is also the factor of non-state actors getting hold of loose nukes. The Indian doctrine is to offer a strong riposte to any country from whose territory a nuclear attack is launched against us. An efficient missile system with sufficient range, and capable of carrying the appropriate payload, is thus a requirement. The country’s Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme, conceived in the early ’80s, was rooted in this thinking.

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