New Delhi, April 19: India’s strategic affairs experts Thursday hailed the nation’s successful test of the Agni-V 5,000-km long range ballistic missile as a ‘significant’ demonstration of technological proficiency, but urged the defence scientists to get the warhead delivery platform operationalised to put up a ‘credible’ nuclear deterrent.
‘It is a significant step forward,’ former Indian Navy chief Admiral Arun Prakash said to describe the missile test that was carried out from the Wheeler Island off Odisha coast.
‘Now it is a ballistic missile of close to inter-continental capability. We only had intermediate range missile capability till now. That makes most targets around us within our reach,’ Prakash told IANS over the phone.
But, it should be operationalised to provide credibility to India’s nuclear deterrence, he added.
Suggesting that the Agni missile programme could stop here, Prakash said the range and capability of this missile is ‘more than adequate’ for India as it bring most targets in China and Pakistan within range and these two nations are India’s adversaries in the immediate neighbourhood.
‘There are no other (adversaries) in the immediate neighbourhood. That said, this missile need not be a threat to anybody. By itself, it is not a threat, as India has a declared no-first-use policy,’ he noted.
Calling the missile test ‘a positive development,’ the former naval chief, however, noted that it was difficult to comment on the indigenous capability, as it is not know how much of the missile was developed with foreign assistance.
‘If it was mostly indigenous, as DRDO claim, it is indeed a good development. If not, we should strive to develop those indigenous capacities in critical technologies,’ he added.
His views were echoed by former Indian Air Force chief Air Chief Marshal S.P. Tyagi, who pointed out that India needs the 5,000-km range missile not for delivering a conventional payload, but a nuclear war head.
‘This missile is to develop a nuclear deterrence. It is part of the strategic deterrence,’ Tyagi told IANS over phone.
‘The 5,000-km range is not for conventional payload. That will make it a waste of resources. It is actually for nuclear deterrence, which means it is not for first use, as our nuclear doctrine stipulates,’ he noted.
If an adversary has to be deterred, India needed to have a missile that can carry ‘significantly heavy’ warhead to ‘sufficient’ distances. Now, Agni-V can carry more than a tonne payload over 5,000 km.
‘Since India has no desire or design to be offensive, it is part of India’s defensive and deterrence strategy,’ he said.
On the indigenous effort to design, develop and produce the missile, Tyagi hailed it as ‘a feather in the cap’ of Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) considering that the technologies were not easily available for import and had to be developed indigenously.
He, in particular, singled out the development of re-entry technologies for a ballistic missile of such a long range.
Another strategic expert and former Institute of Defence Studies and Analyses director Commodore C. Uday Bhaskar said the successful Agni-V launch is ‘a significant demonstrator of India’s technological proficiency.’
‘This has to be seen against the backdrop of India being a country unable to produce on its own a tank or an aircraft, or even a Tatra truck,’ Bhaskar noted.
‘It is about time the country uses its technological proficiency in the field of complex ballistic missile appropriately to quickly convert the technology demonstrator of a missile into an operational capability and induct the missile into its strategic forces so that an adequate deterrent capability is burnished,’ he advised the DRDO.
(N.C. Bipindra can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)