Agni-4 test firing postponed ‘coz Modi in US

It is learnt that the fifth test-firing of the Agni-4 IRBM — and the second after induction as the land-based component of the Strategic Forces Command, that was long ago scheduled was cancelled/postponed by the BJP government because the firing date fell during the time Prime Minister Narendra Modi was in the US. This reflexive pandering to Washington on the one side and China on the other (by, for instance, conducting a joint Indian army-PLA exercise in Kunming at the same time as permitting Japanese warships to participate in the annual Malabar naval exercise with the US Navy, but disallowing the Australian Navy that too wanted to get in on this exercise) suggests that much of the early confidence about Modi standing up squarely for the national interest even if this meant stomping on toes, was a misread. Modi is turning out to be only a showier version of Manmohan Singh!

In any case, contrast the Modi regime’s genuflection to that of Iran under Hassan Rohani. It test-fired the Emad IRBM (apparently an extended-range Shahab-3) capable of carrying nuclear warheads knowing fully well it would be hauled up for defying the nuclear agreement with the US and a UN Security Council Resolution prohibiting the development of Iranian missiles capable of nuclear-ordnance delivery. The Iranian defence minister Hossein Dehghan preempted any criticism from the US and other Western quarters by saying “We don’t seek permission from anyone to strengthen our defence and missile capabilities.” No government in Delhi seems able to muster up such a refreshingly solid and straightforward stance of protecting the country’s sovereign imperatives? Any bets on which country — Iran or India — will be feared and respected by one and all?

Unless its foreign and military policies become disruptive and its attitude to international relations less risk-averse, and it relentlessly advances by any and all means the national interest by, for starters, initiating open-ended thermonuclear testing parallel with frequent test-launches of the Agni-5 IRBM, including the MIRV-ed variety, and the full-fledged Agni-6 ICBM, India, it is argued in my latest book — ‘Why India is Not a Great Power (Yet)’ will remain an inconsequential, middling power, content with stifling Pakistan! The awful thing is our rulers seem quite satisfied with this reduced aspiration — a standing they misrepresent as ‘great power’.

About Bharat Karnad

Senior Fellow in National Security Studies at the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi, he was Member of the (1st) National Security Advisory Board and the Nuclear Doctrine-drafting Group, and author, among other books of, 'Nuclear Weapons and Indian Security: The Realist Foundations of Strategy', 'India's Nuclear Policy' and most recently, 'Why India is Not a Great Power (Yet)'. Educated at the University of California (undergrad and grad), he was Visiting Scholar at Princeton University, University of Pennsylvania, the Shanghai Institutes of International Studies, and Henry L. Stimson Center, Washington, DC.
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10 Responses to Agni-4 test firing postponed ‘coz Modi in US

  1. ~!@#$%^&*()_+ says:

    “content with stifling Pakistan!”

    Indeed that seems to be the intent. To bracket India with Pakistan for next 10-20 years to keep the whole defence debate open to influence. Whoever controls Pakistan then also by implication control India simply by citing a bloated threat profile.

  2. satyaki says:

    Bharat Sir,

    This is indeed unfortunate. The only reason I still support Modi these days is that entities like Rahul Gandhi, etc. look far worse. No genuine nationalist force loooms on the horizon either.

    Does the Agni-V have MIRv variants ? Is the Agni-6 a program sanctioned by the Govt ?

    Also, we see on social media rumours about critical information about our deterrent being deliberately compromised to foreign entities through the last NAC chief having unfettered access to PMO files under the UPA. How plausible is this ?

  3. There’s an Agni-6 ICBM and it’s immanent. NAC was powerful in the working of the previous government. But it is difficult to know where Manmohan Singh’s pusillanimity ended and the external factors intruded, say, on the strategic forces build-up.

    • satyaki says:

      Regarding the NAC chief: that she was powerful was known. Is it plausible that she may have had access to sensitive details about our strategic forces that she could have compromised to outside powers ? Like details enabling a disarming strike by the bigger P-5 type powers ?

  4. satyaki says:

    Bharat Sir,

    Regarding Agni 6, you probably meant to say that it is imminent. Do you mean that a test will happen within the next couple of years ? Or will NaMo in MMS mode stall this ?

  5. No, immanent. GOI hasn’t cleared it.

  6. Dear Mr. Karnad:

    My theory is that whether it is a UPA or an NDA government, it is ultimately the civilian bureaucracy that calls the shots. Our IAS and IFS officers either come from hotbeds of Marxist intrigue such as JNU or DU or are absorbed by the self-defeating Nehruvian philosophy of the North and South Blocks. Therefore, it is our IAS and IFS worthies who determine India’s pusillanimous external and defense policies.

    The dynacrats who inveigle their way into Parliament are invariably only schooled in the machinations of Mandal and Masjid; they are content to leave other matters in the hands of the bureaucrats. The likes of an Arun Singh or Jaswant Singh are few and far between.

    Thank you.

    • That the permanent secretariat actually shapes and directs foreign and military policies is argued in considerable detail in my new book — ‘Why India is Not a Great Power (Yet)’. And, incidentally, as argued in the book the Jaswant Singh-Arun Singh duo didn’t depart from the script or fare all that well either.

  7. satyaki says:

    Bharat Sir,

    The only explanation for this MMS-Modi continuity is the stranglehold of the Nehruvian IAS-IFS lobby. This is probably why the Congress is never really out of power. Would require 10-15 years of continuous NDA rule to change its orientation.

    Even the usual bureaucrats must realize that with China going in for BMD systems, the deterrent (even with Agni-5) will lose credibility unless they move forward to MIRVed systems. So, Agni-6 must be cleared ASAP. But it looks like GoI will not come around to doing this that easily.

    What is the use of an immanent system ? That just amounts to something on some drawing board. Nothing else.

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