In the next week or so, a slew of missile test-firings will take place. The submarine-launched K-4, which other than its publicized launches has been test-fired a number of times without public notice, will be triggered again. The most important design characteristic of the K-4 are the rocket motors around the nose-cone that literally pull the missile up out of the water. This can be seen in a video — https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A_feco6vn7E&feature=youtu.be. In it one can clearly see the water being forcefully ejected after the K-4 has cleared the water surface. Those who know say this is a uniquely Russian SLBM design feature to get the missile out of the water and to increase its boost velocity.
But, more important still is the Agni-5 — the most significant advanced missile in the inventory, which was supposed to have been fired last Fall, and will finally be tested with another launch. The Kasturirangan metric for induction of a missile after a minimum of three successive and successful test firings means, this missile — absent a snafu — will be ready to enter service as well, firming up the strategic triad.
The question is why this sudden spate of missile tests — assuming, of course, the firings actually obtain? The reason for the A-5 not being fired around October 2015, I had speculated then, was to avoid riling Washington. But with the Obama Admin pushing the F-16 sale to Pakistan and generally not sharing the sense of urgency in stifling the Pakistan Army-sponsored terrorist gangs, such as LeT, et al, Modi has apparently decided to flex Indian muscle. The Indian govt’s declining to join Japan and the US navies in exercises in the seas around the Philippines meant to send a clear message to China to rein in its ambitions in the South China Sea followed quickly by the missile launches, is to signal the US not to take Delhi for granted.
Whether this is a one-off thing rather than a sustained policy of standing up for the national interest, remains to be seen. After all, Modi is headed for the so-called “nuclear security summit” in Washington — Obama’s diplomatic swansong this month end and what he says there will, in fact, reveal the country’s formal stance. If, as is expected, he’ll join in the nonproliferation chorus then it’ll become obvious he is less keen to preserve the country’s options than in pleasing the West. To show Delhi means business, Modi should green signal preparations for the test-firing of the Agni-6 ICBM able to carry a three-ton payload of MIRVs, the development of which to-date has been, at best, leisurely, at worst, criminal. For too long the impression has been given by successive Indian govts of a pliant India that’s easy to manipulate and, hence, to disregard. Modi should rethink the policy of intimacy with the US and the West, especially if it ends up losing the country its freedom of action.