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"I believe that to meet the challenges of our times, human beings will have to develop a greater sense of universal responsibility. It is the foundation for world peace."

India's missile power lifts off

May 24, 2008

By James T. Hackett
The Washington Times
May 22, 2008

The spread of long-range ballistic missiles took a step forward on
May 7 with India's successful flight test of its Agni-III missile
that can carry a nuclear warhead as far as Beijing.

But the difference between this and other missile developments is
that India's missiles -- like those of the United States, Britain,
France andd Israel — are not used to threaten others and instead help
deter pootential aggressors.

With nuclear missile-armed neighbors like China, Russia and Pakistan,
India needs an effective deterrent. But for years New Delhi
concentrated on developing tactical missiles to deter Pakistan, which
India fought three times since independence in 1947. India's
nuclear-capable short- and medium-range missiles, in addition to its
supersonic cruise missiles, are an existing deterrent to Pakistan.

Now India emphasizes development of strategic weapons, clearly
worried about China's rapid military buildup. In 1962, India fought a
war with China over their disputed frontier. When Chinese forces put
down the 1959 uprising in Tibet and the Dalai Lama fled to India, New
Delhi began military patrols along its northern border. Conflict with
Chinese troops occurred, and in 1962 war broke out.

In three months of fighting China won every battle, showed the Indian
army to be badly unprepared and redrew the border. Now, 46 years
later there is unrest again in Tibet as China rapidly modernizes its
military. With an arsenal of nuclear missiles that can reach India,
including some reportedly based in Tibet, and a growing navy that
could challenge for control of the Indian Ocean, China has become a
threat to the Subcontinent.

The May 7 flight test was the third for Agni-III. The first test in
2006 failed, but the second in April last year was successful. This
year's test was to validate last year's success and check out a new
ring laser gyro-based navigation system. The Indian Defense Ministry
said everything worked in textbook fashion in terms of range and
accuracy. The missile traveled 3,000 kilometers (1,860 miles) and
splashed down on target. Its full range is said to be 3,500
kilometers, which enables it to reach Shanghai and Beijing.

The government said Agni-III is now being turned over to the army,
which has a missile regiment ready to receive it. The army will
conduct the next flight test by the middle of next year, after which
Agni-III is expected to become operational.

India's defense research organization now turns to complete the
development of Agni-IV, a 3-stage solid fuel missile with a range of
5,000 kilometers (3,100 miles) or more, which would enable it to
cover all of China from launch sites deep inside India. The Initial
flight of Agni-IV is expected in 2010.

Indian defense analysts are concerned about the huge nuclear
submarine base being built by China on Hainan Island in the South
China Sea and Beijing's plan to build up to five ballistic
missile-firing submarines. Consequently, India is building its own
ballistic missile-firing submarine and in February carried out a
successful test launch of a K-15 missile from an underwater platform.
The plan reportedly is to develop a version of the Agni family of
solid-fuel missiles to be carried on Indian submarines.

New Delhi also is working on ballistic missile defenses. In 2006, an
Indian interceptor destroyed a target missile outside the atmosphere
and last December a shorter-range interceptor stopped a missile
inside the atmosphere. This two-stage missile defense is undergoing
further testing, but components could be ready for deployment as soon
as 2010. On a trip to New Delhi in February, Defense Secretary Robert
Gates said the United States and India are studying the possibility
of a joint missile defense system.

After decades of considering Pakistan their principal enemy, Indian
defense officials are beginning to see China as a more serious
long-term threat, and they don't want to be caught unprepared again.
Washington is embracing India as a rising power that can be a
valuable ally to stand with this country, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan
and Australia in defense of democracy in South and East Asia.

Defense against nuclear missiles can be achieved both through active
missile defenses and deterrence. A combination of the two is most
effective. Combining the U.S. and Indian nuclear deterrents, together
with missile defenses in Alaska, California, India, Japan and on
ships in the Pacific, will greatly diminish the ability of China or
any other country to use nuclear missiles to threaten or intimidate others.

We should welcome India's development of both missile defenses and a
strategic nuclear deterrent.

* James T. Hackett is a contributing writer to The Washington Times
based in Carlsbad, Calif.
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