Friday, April 20, 2012
India on Agni path to top missiles club
New Delhi: After the mischief played by the weather gods a day earlier, the god of fire, or “Agni’’, came into his own on Thursday morning to hurl a potent fireball more than halfway across the expanse of the Indian Ocean at over 20 times the speed of sound.
India heralded a new era in its “credible” strategic deterrence capability by testing its most ambitious nuclear missile — the over 5,000-km-range Agni-V — that brings all of China and much more within its strike envelope. With the launch of the 50-tonne missile from Wheeler Island off the Odisha coast at 8.07am, and its 20-minute flight to an “impact point towards western Australia”, India also knocked on the doors of the super-exclusive ICBM (intercontinental ballistic missile) club that counts only the US, Russia, China, France and the UK as its members.
India can, however,sit at this high table only when the 17.5-metre tall Agni-V, which just about meets the 5,500-km ICBM benchmark, becomes fully operational after “four to five repeatable tests’’ and user trials. It will be around 2015 that the three-stage, solid-fuelled missile will be ready for deployment by the tri-Service Strategic Forces Command.
That didn’t dampen the celebrations though, with the missile hailed as a “game-changer”.
Delhi a cooperative partner: Beijing Beijing on Thursday described India as a “cooperative partner’’ and suggested that its test launch of Agni-V missile would not impact regional stability hours after a Communist Party-owned newspaper slammed the test flight, saying “India would stand no chance in an overall arms race with China”. A ‘Global Times’ commentary advised India “not to be arrogant about its missile capabilities’’. P 8 US praises ‘non-proliferation’ record T he Obama administration on Thursday refrained from from criticizing India for the Agni-V test, and instead praised its “solid non-proliferation record”. Drawing a clear distinction between India and other countries, state department spokesman Mark Toner said the US has a “very strong strategic and security partnership with India, so we obviously have routine discussions about a wide range of topics”. P 8 Agni-V covers whole of Asia
It’s a game-changer… a superhit. India is a major missile power now. I don’t think it will take more than two years for Agni-V to be ready for induction,’’ DRDO chief V K Saraswat, said soon after the test.
Chief controller (missiles and strategic systems) Avinash Chander said: “We have met all the mission objectives… All three stages of propulsion, with indigenously developed composite rocket motors, worked perfectly.’’
The maiden test of Agni-V, designed to carry a 1.5-tonne nuclear warhead, expectedly generated waves. The missile, after all, can deliver multiple warheads and cover the whole of Asia, 70% of Europe and eastern Africa, leaving only continental America beyond its deadly reach.
Even as PM Manmohan Singh and defence minister A K Antony congratulated the scientists for “doing the country proud’’, the US took note of India’s “solid nonproliferation record’’. China, however, made its displeasure clear.
India, with a declared “no first-use’’ nuclear doctrine, could have gone in for a much higher-range ICBM, say top officials. But Agni-V, with its “very short reaction time as well as very high mobility for requisite operational flexibility’’, takes care of India’s “current threat perceptions’’.
Unlike the earlier missiles, Agni-V can be easily stored in hermitically sealed canisters and swiftly transported atop launcher trucks by road.