India’s latest addition to its armoury puts the country in an exclusive club
Additions to a country’s arsenal are rarely predicated on any foreseeable usage—these are made more with deterrence in mind, especially when you have hostile to cold neighbours. Though India is better placed than Pakistan in terms of military prowess, it lags behind its other neighbour, China. Despite having the fourth-highest defence spending globally, New Delhi’s defence budget is a third of Beijing’s. But, it is now all set to flex some newly honed muscles, adding to its armoury a long-range inter-continental ballistic missile (ICBM). This puts India in a select global club. With the fourth successful test-fire of Agni V—the ICBM was first tested in 2012—India becomes the sixth country after the US, the UK, Russia, China, and France to have developed a 5,000-km-plus range, nuclear-capable missile. While Agni V still doesn’t put it on a par with China—which has a missile whose range is over-11,000-km—the ICBM sure adds to its military capability.
India has two short-range—Prithvi and Dhanush—missiles and three mid-range ones; the maximum distance the latter cover is 3,000km. The expanded fleet, the hope is, would bring some balance of power in the neighbourhood and also prove a deterrent against any ‘first-use’ move by hostile neighbours. Agni V would still have to undergo trials under the Strategic Forces Command before it is inducted for operations. It is also expected to have a more intelligent entry mechanism to defeat enemy ballistic missile defence systems. But the highlight would be the manoeuvrability these will provide, given that the 50-tonne payload can be fired from any of the launch trucks.