And India will shield itself from ballistic missiles using…kind words?

Today’s missile defence technology may not be perfect. But kind words alone are not going to protect India from nuclear-tipped missiles

Kartik Bommakanti makes out a case against missile defence in today’s Indian Express. His technical argument is that theatre missile defence can be overwhelmed by China and Pakistan acting in concert and lobbing a large number of missiles simultaneously at India. His political argument is that India’s defence strategy should not become an extension of American security policy. He contends also that putting in place a missile defence system will only provoke Pakistan into getting more aggressive and lower its nuclear threshold.

All Bommakanti has to offer by way of alternatives is KWD, or the Kind Word Defence

Here the fundamental problem to be cracked with Pakistan is political and strategic and not military/technical. It is movement at the strategic level through diplomacy that will determine whether we can overcome the military and political stalemate on the ground in Kashmir or Pakistani nuclear blackmail.[IE]

Missile defence technology is in its infancy, and foolproof protection against ballisitic missiles is some way off. That, however, does not imply that India should take a consumerist mindset and wait for the product to arrive in supermarket shelves. Not only must it put in place a system now to get on to the upgrade path, but also must participate in international R&D work in this area. Working with the United States, Israel and Japan on missile defence is not an ‘extension of American security policy’ — it is in India’s own interests to do so.

And as for that technical argument, the likelihood of China and Pakistan acting in collusion to launch a joint nuclear strike against India is perhaps the same as the missile defence system actually failing. So it is better to work on improving missile defence technology than hope that China and Pakistan will not do the worst.

India has wasted enough time under the Kind Word Defence shield. Since 1971 Pakistan has procured its own nuclear weapons, sparked off terrorism in Punjab and Kashmir, and even launched a military operation in Kargil. It is unlikely that KWD alone will prevent Pakistan from launching a missile attack. Without missile defence, India has to fear angering Pakistan. With missile defence, there is no need to cultivate such a fear. It’s about pyschology too.

6 thoughts on “And India will shield itself from ballistic missiles using…kind words?”

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  3. Missile defense shields are massive expenditures and are fairly unlikely to work if one is to judge by the U.S. track record. They also would likely encourage further arms development (including their use as an offensive weapon) and undermine nonproliferation. They’re a crazy idea that Reagan initiatied and which has, almost unthinkably, become near real in the U.S. And even if in India’s interest, they’re an extension of U.S. aims, like it or not.

    I think the prospect mutually assured destruction combined with massive economic and social aid to build civil society institutions in Pakistan (and averting a crazy taking over) would be a better way to approach it.

  4. Saurav,

    Can you enlighten us about the US track record? Especially considering that the US has a mutlilayered approach including the very successful PAC-3, Aegis, Arrow, etc? Please in your discussion talk about all current online missile defense systems in the US arsenal and point to the issues and defects. I am sure you know all of the above have solid track records and two of them have solid track records in conflict. There are also many other missile defense systems as I am sure you are well aware of but perhaps you, like most of the media, are just focused on the terminal phase of ICBM’s where several tests have indeed failed interestingly enough mostly because of a silo arm jamming in two tests. You might like to read here

    Missile defense is indeed complex especially if your goal is 100% protection from all possible missile threats but defense against short range, sea born, artillery missiles, or even theater missiles is very possible and the US has a great track record in this area. BTW these are all the threats India faces which are much different than what the US goal of defense is.

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