Confused over Agni-III

Self-imposed restraints and international commitments are mutually contradictory

India’s defence scientific establishment is ready to test Agni-III, an intermediate range ballistic missle (IRBM) with a range of 4000km. Although this is still a long way off from operationalisation, the test-readiness of Agni-III takes India one step closer to addressing the strategic balance with China, everyone’s favourite strategic rival. It also puts India on the road to prepare for eventualities where more countries in the neighbourhood gets their hands on missiles and weapons of mass destruction.

There has always been, and there most certainly is, pressure on India to hold back from testing
‘new page turning’ weapons. The United States under Bill Clinton attempted to convince P V Narasimha Rao to call off nuclear testing in the mid 1990s. Of course, in the end, it was Rao who convinced himself. Testing at the best of times is subject to extreme pressure. Surely at this time, when the India-US nuclear accord is facing rough weather in the US Congress, talk about missile testing is the wrong way to go? Well, that’s hard to tell at this time.

The Indian government has announced that it will not test Agni-III for now. Not due to political pressure, but due to India’s familiar ‘self-imposed restraint’. Bizarrely, Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee also said, “As responsible members of the international community, we want to keep our international commitments on non-proliferation”. What commitments are those? To whom were these made? If the commitments were secret then isn’t it natural to affirm them in secret too?

Instead of unambiguously declaring that it is only self-restraint that is holding India back from testing, Mukherjee has clouded the issue by bringing in non-proliferation, a red herring. In any case, it is unclear whether he noticed that self-imposed restraints and international commitments contradict each other. He sounds confused. It would be extremely unfortunate if he is too.

Related Links: Agni-III is a good idea, as the focus of deterrence shifts to the delivery; Maverick’s views on technological speculation should inform this discussion.

10 thoughts on “Confused over Agni-III”

  1. I suspect it is due to domestic pressure now that Pranabda had been handed over another defeat in West Bengal by the Chinese Puppets in India (CPI) and Chinese Puppets in India – Morons (CPI-M). The latter two have made commitments to their masters in Beijing to always keep India down. And Kaangress has no choice but to listen to them.

  2. Agni 3 with a range of 4-6K km brings not just the whole of china in its range but even cities like Vienna, Rome, Moscow, Cairo, Tokyo, Perth and Pretoria. this strictly from the indian mainland. with a sub launched version it can hit anywhere in the Eastern hemisphere and Australasia from the Bay of bengal, the arabian sea or the Indian ocean. only the western hemisphere is out of its range. this has lot of implications and will have lot of countries besides china worried. we need to proceed with some caution and assuage the concerns of a lot of countries before proceedinf forward.

  3. Apollo,

    At this time Agni-3 is not much more than a prototype; and its range may not even be the promised 4000km. An operational land-based version is distant. The sub launched version is even further away.

    So yes, when India possesses missiles of the capabilities that you mention, then the implications you point out become valid. But only when, not before. 🙂

  4. Apollo,

    Minutemans can reach Indian main land. As can Ghauri, Julang-1/2, DF 21/31, Topol-M, Bulava, Tridents.

    Ghauris and related missile have been tested about 4 times this year. How many times was India’s concern even noted?
    Topol-M was recently tested and blew a big hole in NMD of the USA – and no one asked them to be stopped to assuage anyone’s concerns.

    India has to answer to nobody – whether we possess a missile to defend ourselves is nobody’s business, except ours.

  5. Mixing non-proliferation issues with testing a missile by Indian defense minister is really stupid.

    I think they don’t want to give the American NPAs one more stick to beat us with when it comes to the current nuclear deal pursued by Manmohan Singh. I’d be more concerned if Pranab had declared that we don’t need Agni-III. Postponing is a concern but a not grave one.

    Also western Europe, Moscow, and Tokyo is more than 4000km from mainland India. In fact, Agni III, a non-ICBM and can barely make to northeast China even if located in Arunachal Pradesh.

  6. CN,

    Dont think there’s much literature out there – from what I have read, the JL1 is quasi-operational – its development overlapped with the Agni’s timeframe(although it became operational earlier). But with the Xia being at the base all the time, JL1’s are useless.

    On the DF’s tests:
    FAS has some info – [1] [2] [3]

  7. maverick,
    I Would like to draw your attention towards importance of ICBM to india’s credible nuclear detterence , any suggestion to link ICBM with commercial prespective is not just a blurred but also an short sighted vision to india’s fast changing role in global strategic scenario.Defence expenditure is just like a expenditure/investment on life insurance & one can never realise the importance of it unless he\she is dead.

    Thanks.
    P.Rajesh

  8. Hello,

    Pranab is a person who doesnot have the confidence on himself. These are the persons who are in the sits they never desrves. they buy weapons because during the process they can earn some money. The speaks stupidly of false commitment, actually they dont have the courage.
    Thanks
    S Patel

Comments are closed.