OPINION

The Agni Missile is for Nuclear Aggression

Contributing Editor Air Marshal (Retd) AYAZ AHMED KHAN declares convincingly that the AGNI is an offensive weapon.

The January 17 test firing of AGNI II ballistic missile by Bharat is a grave development which threatens national and regional security. After AGNI II’s firing India has claimed that its nuclear deterrent and nuclear doctrine has become credible ie Bharat now has the retaliatory second strike capability to respond powerfully to nuclear first strikes from its adversaries; be it China or Pakistan. Inspite of Pakistan’s declared policy and repeated assurance never to use nuclear weapons, India has blasted the AGNI II to intimidate Pakistan. Bharat has develped AGNI II ballistic missile with a 1000 Kg nuclear warhead to reach and destroy every corner of Pakistan. The instant firing AGNI II ballistic missile could devastate much of China, entire Pakistan, Iran, Afghanistan, all the Arab Gulf states, Iraq, and most of Saudi Arabia, and all the Central Asian States. Nuclear armed AGNI II could destroy all the cities in Burma, Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and much of Indonesia. One nuclear armed AGNI II would be enough to wipe out Hong Kong, Singapore and Brunei. These countries will pay a high price for their ostrich like attitude to the above threat. The AGNI II will cover all the shipping lanes of Indian ocean, and international shipping passing through the Indian Ocean now stands threatened by Indian nuclear attacks. Fired from the central plateau of Bihar AGNI II’s would cover enough Chinese territory including the western cities of Chengdu and Kunming. Launched from northern Assam important Chinese cities like Shanghai and Beijing will come within its reach.

Many Western defence observers have commented that the AGNI IRBM’s are China specific. They have been designed as a deterrent against Peoples Republic of China. The development of longer range (3500 KM) AGNI III by the DRDO is a proof that India’s nuclear-missile programme is indeed targeted against China. General Pervez Musharraf the Chief Executive has commented that India’s test of its medium range AGNI II ballistic missile would not injure the peace process over Kashmir. He rightly said that the AGNI test should be a matter of concern for China and other countries of the region. ‘He said that India has enough Prithvi missiles targetted against Pakistan. It is true that over one hundred nuclear armed Prithvi I and II missiles deployed along the borders are enough to take care of Pakistan. But the nuclear armed AGNI II threat cannot be brushed aside lightly. General Musharraf’s statement has created the impression that Pakistan was not concerned about this latest dangerous development which threatens its security. Apart from being a serious menace to national safety and survivability, considering its timing it was a highly provocative action. This inciting and defiant test was carried out at a time when efforts were on to solve the Kashmir dispute by a peaceful dialogue between India, Pakistan and the APHC. General Musharraf perhaps was not properly briefed, though the Foreign Office a day earlier had expressed serious concern over the test firing of AGNI II, describing it as, ‘part of India’s ambitious nuclear and missile programmes, which pose direct threat to Pakistan’s security’. The press release and newspaper reports of the recent Corps Commanders conference (January 21-22) do not reveal that the military implications of AGNI II missile test were discussed. The fact is that the AGNI II is a dangerous menace because it will provide over kill nuclear capability and has been evaluated by Indian specialists as an effective ‘minimum deterrent’ against Pakistan as well. Combined with nuclear armed Prithvi’s the AGNI II as an area destruction weapon will dangerously enhance and accentuate the planned destruction of Pakistan by Indian missiles, nukes and nuclear armed strike aircraft. The strategic nuclear-missile imbalance thus created must be corrected. Pakistan must not down play Indian missile and nuclear threat and must take appropriate steps to ward off this enhanced threat to its security, survivability and sovereignty.

With the successful testing of the second AGNI II India’s nuclear attack and deterrent capability is now more credible than before. India has consolidated its status as a credible nuclear missile state. This provocative test disregards missile and nuclear restraint regimes desired by the international community including Pakistan. Pakistan’s security stands threatened because: (a) India’s three times larger conventional forces will gain a distinct advantage when supported by short range Prithvi and medium range AGNI missiles. (b) Used in combination with the long range nuclear capable Su 30 K and Mirage 2000 strike aircraft of the Indian Air Force, the AGNI II IRBM’s could destroy military concentrations, cantonments, air fields, railway junctions and Pakistani harbours. (c) This test is a decisive step towards the deployment of credible nuclear deterrent by the TRIAD as spelt out in the Indian nuclear doctrine. (d) AGNI II is designed for offensive nuclear aggression and has no defensive purpose. (e) The AGNI II test firing, development and deployment is a provocation and act of intimidation and hegemony against India’s smaller neighbours. This test firing, therefore, must not be ignored. Though declared operational, three more test firings are planned before the AGNI II is certified into series production.

It is worth mentioning that the Indian Air Force was renamed as Indian Aerospace Force on October 6 last year, in preparation of the induction of AGNI missile systems and their maintenance and operation by IAF personnel. India’s Defence Research and Development Organization has taken unduly long time of sixteen years to develop and test fire the AGNI missiles. The AGNI IRBM programme was started by the DRDO in early 80’s. By 1984 funds, resources and infrastructure was in place.The test firing of AGNI II from a mobile launcher at the interim test Range in Chandipur-on -sea in Orissa was witnessed by Defence Minister George Fernandes, Chief of the Air Staff IAF Air Chief Marshal A.Y Tipnis, Indian Army Vice Chief Lt. Gen V.K Oberoi, and a team of scientists including Scientific Advisor Dr V.K Aatre and Programme Director Prof R. N Aggarwal. The timing of the test is also significant for the aforesaid reasons and the fact that it was test fired a day before Mr Li Peng, Chairman of China’s National People’s Congress (Chinese Parliament) and the second most important personality of China was to depart India for home. Indian media had commented adversely when People’s Republic of China had conducted a nuclear weapon test in 1990 during the official visit of the President Venkataraman to China. Many Indian analysts commented that it was a tit for tat for the Chinese nuclear test of 1990. The timing is deliberate to send a message to Beijing not to under-estimate Indian resolve to become a global player and sensitivities for not being treated as an equal.

Some salient features of the AGNI II missile merit attention. The AGNI II is a solid fuelled missile, and can be rail and road mobile. Use of solid fuels and the mobility will provide flexibility of operations i.e quick reaction, rapid launch, and survivability against attack. Mobility by rail and road will help surprise and pre-emption and will make for easy dispersal. It is not easy to detect and eliminate a missile attack system which is road and rail transportable and could be anywhere. Such mobility will safeguard the retaliatory first strike capability of the AGNI IRBM system, which is vital for credible deterrence ie second strike capability. Chief of the Army Staff Indian Army General Sunderajan Padmanabhan recently told Jane’s Defence Weekly that, ‘If nuclear deterrence failed, India must have a second strike capability’. An adversary unable to ascertain the location and deployment of a rapid firing mobile missile system will be vulnerable and deterred by the possibility of immediate massive retaliation. The AGNI II thus provides credible deterrence against a contemplated first strike by an adversary. And this will give an edge to India against its foremost adversary.

India plans to develop and launch AGNI III with a range of 3500 Km in coming years.The Indian geo-stationary satellite is also to be launched within the next few weeks, establishing thereby India’s comprehensive missile capability. India has obtained wavers from the United States enabling it to pursue Light Combat Aircraft and missile programmes unhindered.Hindustan Aeronautics Bangalore (HAL) was cleared to fit and fly the LCA with General Electric 404 F engine and American fly by wire and control systems. The sold fuel for the AGNI II missile reportedly has been supplied to DRDO by Russia and by American companies. While the US Department of State had made an issue of Pak-China cooperation in the defence and missile fields, forcing such cooperation to stop, India has been supplied state of the art technologies and materials for the under developement Light Combat Aircraft, AGNI II IRBM and the Indian Geo-stationary satellite? Pakistan should take serious notice of Indo-US collaborations which threaten peace and stability of the region. The incoming Bush Administration should be asked to stop India’s missile and nuclear proliferation proclivities and activities, and violation of missile restraint regimes which are bound to trigger a dangerous missile and nuclear weapon race in South Asia.

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