Photo: AP/Saurabh das
India is scheduled to test-fire a long-range, nuclear warhead-enabled missile, capable of reaching deep into Asia or Europe, next week, a defence ministry official has told Reuters.The test launch of the Agni V would put New Delhi in the company of a small club of nations with intercontinental defence capabilities. Only China, Russia, France, the United States, the United Kingdom, and Israel are believed to currently own such long-range missiles.
Agni V has a range of more than 5,000 kilometers (3,100 miles), which means it can target any location in China with a 2,200-ton nuclear warhead, IBNLive reports. India has constantly maintained it uses the missiles only as deterrents. And while many might think announcing a launch so soon after North Korea’s failed attempt and the ensuing criticism might be unwise, the success of Agni is crucial to India.
1. It needs to solidify its position as a growing global power
India has been striving to be a global geopolitical superpower to match its growing economy for some time now. It’s stepped up attempts to become a permanent member of the UN Security Council, it has continued to develop nuclear capabilities, and it is planning missions to Mars and the Moon as well.
India has been called an emerging economic powerhouse, but it very rarely wields political power in international diplomacy to match this. According to Peter Drysdale of the East Asia Forum, India is often seen as a pawn in the America vs. China battle for global dominance. Continuing to develop better, more advanced weapons could make the world sit up and take notice.
2. It’s part of the customary saber-rattling to keep regional rivals (especially China) at bay
India and China have always regarded each other with mutual suspicion (often egged on by the media). China has regularly conducted troop movements and arms buildups in disputed areas with India, which leads to New Delhi beefing up deployments along the borders. Chinese soldiers have often been caught allegedly illegally crossing the border into Indian territory.
China has repeatedly, yet somewhat subtly, registered its disapproval with India’s military activities, even though it continues to improve its own military might. And while it seems unlikely that there will be a repeat of the 1962 Indo-China War any time soon, given the enormous volume of trade between the two countries, the fact remains that China is one of the countries that possesses a long-range missile.
And if you believe in the “String of Pearls” theory (that China is creating a sphere of influence in Asia around India that could isolate it), for India to not have a long range missile, especially one like the Agni V, whose range covers all of China, even if it serves merely as a deterrent would be unwise.
3. It would be a morale booster for the Indian armed forces and could smooth over differences with the government
The Indian military has been involved in numerous run-ins with the government recently, from the Chief of Army Staff’s attempts to stall his mandatory retirement, to an allegedly leaked letter from him to the government claiming India’s weapons were outdated and accusations of corruption, to unsubstantiated reports of an impending coup and alleged bugging of the Defence Minister’s office.
Divisions between the military and civilian government is dangerous, given that India is surrounded by countries hostile to it. The rocket launch will showcase India’s military might not just to the world, but to its own soldiers as well, who obviously will be smarting under allegations of being under-prepared.
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