The barrage of media reports (no doubt prompted by DRDO sources) about MIRVs on the Agni, was mystifying. Just got off an early evening television program (Headlines Today TV) with Dr Selvamurthy, one of the senior most DRDO brass, who clarified matters, but only after I had publicly raised doubts about the MIRV aspect. Being quite certain there were no MIRVs on-board, I wondered if the MIRVing technology had actually been tested, when in fact the initial test of such eqpt is a couple of years away. Dr Selvamurthy, in response, confirmed that such tech had not been “demonstrated” in this first test, but added it was MIRV-capable, design-wise, which is what I wrote in my 2008 book – ‘Índia’s Nuclear Policy’.
The question that really bothers me is the DRDO tendency to overstate (the less polite word is, exaggerate) its achievements. The Agni-5 is a superlative capability, but it isn’t MIRV-ed yet. Why make such a claim then? Similarly, Agni-5 is an IRBM, why call it an ICBM? It fools nobody, least of all our adversaries, who have a good fix on our strategic programs and are sufficiently nonplussed by its progress to assist our strategic cause. These missiles don’t need official embellishment. But then that’s a carryover from the nuclear realm where despite not having tested, proven, and reliable thermonuclear and boosted fission designs in our inventory, the Govt claims they have an entirely serviceable weapon with fusion warheads. How can such a claim be sustained on the basis of only simulation, component and sub-system testing, escapes me. As far as I’m concerned, it erodes the credibility of the nuclear (business) end, of the country’s deterrent.