Geopolitics of Agni-III, in brief

It’s not a major factor in the strategic tensions between India and China

It is amusing to see scholarly commentary linking India’s test of the Agni-III ballistic missile with that of China’s recent ASAT missile, as if one were a response to the other. It’s nothing of that sort. And any analysis that draws attention to the “fresh spectre of strategic tensions” between the two countries but ignores China’s rising power in and around the subcontinent, and its rapid military modernisation, can neither be complete nor accurate. While the future of Asia might call for a ‘genuine reconciliation’ between India and China, what it should really hope for is a stable balance of power in the Indian Ocean region.

But does the Agni-III test really bring Chinese cities within the reach of Indian missiles? Not yet, as Maverick takes pains to point out. What was tested was a technology demonstrator, in other words a prototype that proves that the entire missile system is workable. But that is still a long way off from having an operational Agni-III arsenal. Indian missiles, in other words, do not yet have the capability to strike at China’s cities. According to Maverick, “technology demonstration is a vital part of articulating deterrence notions. This should not be confused with actually making a statement of deterrence posture”. The nuance is lost on the media—which gets hysteric both when the missile flies and when it fails.

Related Post: One China policy

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