Written by: Rida Zeenat
Recently India conducted a successful ballistic missile defence test which was capable enough to intercept and kill the incoming missile. This shows that Indian ballistic missile defence program comprising of long range tracking radar, command and control system and the interceptor, is maturing at a faster pace. As a result, the South Asian strategic stability would be challenged as there are diversification of threats and limited response options, BMD adds value to the complexity of the region.
India believes in nuclear dominance in the region and aspires to have extended self defence. It aims to become a global power. The technological edge that it is struggling to acquire over Pakistan and China has been to some extent proven by the successful ballistic missile defence test it conducted on 6th March 2011. Till now India has conducted six tests out of which four were successful and two failed due to technological reasons. But now India would proudly be a part of the elite club of the ‘BMD haves’ which includes United States, Russia and Israel.
India acquired the system with the technological assistance of United States and Israel. Indian BMD program has a two-tiered system namely Prithvi Air Defence (PAD) for high altitude interception and Advanced Air Defence (AAD) for lower altitude interception. The PAD missiles are for intercepting ballistic missiles at altitudes between 50-80 km and the Advanced Air Defence (AAD) missile is for destroying them at heights ranging 15-30 km.
India’s future plans include two new anti ballistic missiles that can intercept Inter Continental Ballistic Missiles (ICBM) namely Advanced Defence (AD-1 and AD-2) which would be capable of intercepting and destroying a missile at a range around 5,000 km (3,100 mi)
India justifies its acquisition of BMD by stating that as India has a no first use policy (NFU) therefore in order to ensure its second strike capability and to be able to absorb the first strike and retaliate it needs BMD. This would add value to its deterrent capability. Indian BMD is theatre missile defence it cannot protect the entire Indian soil but can only give protection to its some land-based strategic locations. It has Nuclear submarines INS Arihant which would be inducted in Indian Navy by 2012 will protect its seas.
Another dimension that adds fuel to the fire is the Indian plan to accommodate the Anti-Satellite (ASAT) as apart of its BMD program. India believes that its high-altitude interceptors can indeed serve as Anti–Satellite weapons (ASAT) which would be capable of destroying low orbit satellites. India perceives that its space assets are not secure and are threatened from China, as China possesses Anti-Satellite weapons therefore it has all the right to acquire ASAT which will ultimately enhance its security in space. Moreover before a legally binding framework comes into being which would prohibit the acquisition of Anti-Satellite weapons India wants to be the part of the club of ‘ASAT haves’ rather than ‘have-nots’.
DRDO Director General V.K. Saraswat announced during 97th Indian Science Congress “India was developing lasers and an exo-atmospheric kill vehicle that could be combined to produce a weapon to destroy enemy satellites in orbit, kill vehicle, which is needed for intercepting the satellite, needs to be developed, and that work is going on as part of the ballistic missile defense program by 2014.”
India is on the road to acquire laser-based anti-ballistic missile systems called Directed Energy Weapons (DEWs). DEW weapons can kill incoming ballistic missiles by bombarding them with subatomic particles or electromagnetic waves. The weapons are capable of intercepting missiles soon after they are launched towards India. According to DRDO scientist the DEW laser weapon is capable of producing 25-kilowatt pulses that can destroy a ballistic missile within seven kilometers. One of these weapons is the air defense dazzler, which can engage enemy aircraft and helicopters at a range of 10 kilometers.
The Indian pursuit of BMD and its goal to accommodate ASAT will have regional implications. It not only provokes Pakistan but also China to take requisite steps in order to have counter measures to overcome Indian BMD. As a result of which China conducted successful BMD test in 2010 and is on the road to acquire effective BMD program in near future.
Whereas, Pakistan’s economy does not support it to acquire BMD program. Pakistan would feel insecure as its counter measure strike capability is not sufficient and secondly it does not possess any assured second strike capability. That is the reason that it sticks to First Use policy to equalize the deterrent equation. It would ultimately engage in acquiring additional missiles and launchers to devise a much larger attacking force which would elude the Indian interceptors, leading to triangular security dilemma in the region.
Moreover Pakistan would improve the nuclear arsenals qualitatively and quantitatively as it considers the nuclear weapons an integral part of its defence system which would result in nuclear instability.
This rapid technological inflow, aim to have a comprehensive space program and western discriminatory approaches to make India a ‘Shining India’ is very threatening for Pakistan and China also up to an extent. India has been accommodated into the four export control regimes namely Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), Australia Group (AG), Wassanar Arrangment (WA) and Nuclear Supplier Group (NSG) would further make India technology enabler and legitimizing India’s status.
Indian defence and space companies DRDO and ISRO respectively have been removed from entity list which would provide India hi-tech and nuclear technology access. India will further pursue its space program and struggle to get the technological edge over Pakistan and China.
This shows that India would be able to pursue its ballistic missile defence program and is planning to deploy it in near future and If India does so it will assure its second strike capability. Although BMD is defensive technology, highly expensive and technologically uncertain but its possession fortifies a state to adopt offensive policies. India has moved from deterrence to pre-emption compelling states to further improve their response option which destabilizes the strategic equation of the entire region.
About the author:
Rida Zeenat is working as a Research Fellow at the South Asian Strategic Stability Institute (SASSI). She holds M.Sc. degree in Defence and Diplomatic Studies from Fatima Jinnah Women University, Pakistan. Her M.Sc. dissertation was based on “Pakistan’s Nuclear Doctrine of Credible Minimum Deterrence”. She has also participated at various current affairs television programs.