What Agni V test launch means for India

Now that the initial euphoria of the successful launch of India’s longest range missile (call it IRBM, ICBM, doesn’t matter) Agni V is over, congratulatory messages from Prime Minister downwards delivered, scientists and India’s strategic community must concentrate on the next steps in fully developing and operationalising the strategic deterrent asset.

As the Prime Minister said in a statement: “ I congratulate all the scientific and technical personnel of the DRDO and other organisations who have worked tirelessly in our endeavour to strengthen the defence and security of our country. Today’s successful Agni V test launch represents another milestone in our quest to add to the credibility of our security and preparedness and to continuously explore the frontiers of science. The nation stands together in honouring the scientific communIty.

Without doubt Agni V represents a major technology breakthrough for Indian missile scientists but it will require several more tests before Agni V can be seen as a credible deterrence.

Although the full telemetry data will take some time to be evaluated, scientists have reported excellent results of the missile’s manouvrebility terminal guidance system. Indian Naval ships, stationed in the path of the missile’s trajectory would have record its journey and picked up all the relevant data.

Built at a reported cost of over 25 million dollars, the 17  metres tall, 50 tonne Agni-V’s three stages were powered by solid propellants.

It has a capacity to carry a nuclear warhead weighing over one tonne.

While the missile is at least four years away from full induction in the armed forces, its successful launcvh has sent out a message to Asia and the world at large that India now has the capacity to manufacture and launch a highly complex system which only five other nations possess.

In Asia only China has the capability and better arsenal than India.

Agni V launch video, courtesy DRDO

In any case, India should not aspire to match China missile for missile.

Agni V however will allow India to possess a credible N-deterrance which is what India is looking for given its No-First Use Nuclear doctrine.

Expectedly, Chinese commentators, or least some of them, have mocked the test. Global Times, the English daily from Beijing headlined the News item: “India being swept up by missile delusion” and went on to comment: “India should not overestimate its strength. Even if it has missiles that could reach most parts of China, that does not mean it will gain anything from being arrogant during disputes with China. India should be clear that China’s nuclear power is stronger and more reliable. For the foreseeable future, India would stand no chance in an overall arms race with China.”

On a day when India has crossed an important technology threshold, these comments are at best ignored.

Nations have national interests and each nation should act and behave by the dictates of its own national interest without bothering what rivals and neighbours are saying.

India should do exactly that.

  1. April 19, 2012 -

    I like your stand and agree with this. India's national interest are prime, not to be compared with what other countries are doing or trying to achieve.

  2. April 19, 2012 -

    Thanks Ajit.

  3. April 19, 2012 -

    Hi Nitin. Nice post.While this is a great dev, I think this proces is not complete until naval/SSN version of this are developed, and the Arihant is fully operationalized, as only then is the strategic triad complete. I also feel that we need at least 3 Arihants (one as a stand-by and one on each seaboard), as well as 3 aircraft carriers (same logic), before we can actually say we are secure.We do not covet any other country's lands, but have to recover our lands from China (Aksai Chin) and Pak (POK), sometime in the future. We need a strong deterrence, as the next war, if ever it happens (god forbid), will be a two-front war with Pak and China.

  4. April 19, 2012 -

    Hi Nitin,Agree with overall approach.But belligerent China must be put in its pace. It is easy for China to BULLY Asean nations but India is a GREAT POWER in its own right and Indian Democracy must give back as good as it gets as we are not a VASSAL of china. How the Indian AFs and GOI under PM Singh downplay China's remarks are sickening and capitulation at drop of hat and is not advisable too you will surely agree! For the matter China's ruling establishment arrogance shows in official and unofficial media attacks on Indian democracy. A LION always behaves like a lion and will never eat grass. This policy of Nehru-Gandhi led Congress party in particular and followed by BJP under Vajpayee has caused untold harm to India's standing. Always I remember from history 1 Prithviraj Chauhan is enough for centuries we ned leaders of calibre to lead like Rana Pratap, Chattrapati Shivaji not hyaenas like Indian ministers who can enrich themselves in SCAMS but do not defend the country without getting pound of flesh whether in kickbacks or honest at expense of nation's defence prepardness! Honest BUT inefficient PM,HM and RM have done great disservice to NATION for which I hope we do not continue to pay heavy price in terms of loss of innocent Indian lives!!!RegardsRamSingapore

  5. April 20, 2012 -

    Thanks Anish. Yes, the test on Thursday is but a first step. A credible N-triad is still not on the horizon.

  6. April 20, 2012 -

    I too am hoping that we come out our current thinking. Thanks for your comments.