गिलगित-बाल्टिस्तान काउंसिल, इस्लामाबाद द्वारा आयकर (अनुकूलन) कानून, 2012 के तहत प्रत्यक्ष कर लागू करने का ऐलान होने के बाद हाल में समूचे गिलगित-बाल्टिस्तान में जबरदस्त विरोध प्रदर्शन शुरू हो गए। विरोध की अगुआई अंजुमन-ए-ताजिरान (जिसका मोटा अर्थ व्यापारियों की समिति है क्योंकि ताजिर का अर्थ व्यापारी होता है) और अवामी एक्शन कमेटी (एएसी) ने मिलकर किया था। कुछ दिन पहले प्रदर्शनकारियों ने कर के प्रति अपना विरोध जताने के लिए कराकरोम क्षेत्र की हाड़ कंपाने वाली ठंड में भी स्कार्डू से गिलगित शहर तक (करीब 150 किलोमीटर दूरी) “लंबा जुलूस” निकालने की घोषणा कर डाली थी।
भारतीय मीडिया ने इन घटनाओं पर झटपट प्रतिक्रिया दे डाली और समाचार चैनलों ने इस क्षेत्र के विवादित दर्जे का हवाला देते हुए इन्हें स्वतंत्रता पाने के लिए सत्ता के खिलाफ आंदोलन बता डाला। हालांकि पाकिस्तान सरकार ने दबाव में आकर अधिसूचना वापस ले ली, लेकिन जो हालात बने, उन्हें देखकर गिलगित-बाल्टिस्तान इलाके के माहौल पर चर्चा करने के लिए बहुत कुछ है। इसीलिए यदि गिलगित-बाल्टिस्तान के माहौल और पाकिस्तान सरकार तथा उसकी संस्थाओं के साथ उसके रिश्ते को समझना है तो वहां चल रहे खेल को, विशेषकर अगुआई कर रही अवामी एक्शन कमेटी के खेल को और उसके प्रमुख कारणों को समझना जरूरी है।
20-22 धार्मिक और राष्ट्रवादी दलों के समूह अवामी एक्शन कमेटी की स्थापना करीब चार वर्ष पहले हुई थी और 2014 में गेहूं की सब्सिडी खत्म करने के पाकिस्तान सरकार के फैसले का विरोध करने पर वह बहुत लोकप्रिय हो गई। करिश्माई वकील और तत्कालीन संयोजक अहसान अली के नेतृत्व में अवामी एक्शन कमेटी के आम लोगों से जुड़ाव और सबको जुटाने की उसकी रणनीतियों ने उसे जनता में बहुत लोकप्रिय बना दिया। पहले किए गए विरोध में अवामी एक्शन कमेटी ने कारगिलवासियों को मिलने वाली सब्सिडी का हवाला देते हुए कारगिल चलो का नारा दिया। यह बड़ा मुद्दा है क्योंकि पड़ोसी लद्दाख को गिलगित-बाल्टिस्तान के मुकाबले अधिक फायदे और राजनीतिक प्रतिनिधित्व मिलता है।
दुर्भाग्य से 2014 में ही अहसान अली को संयोजक के पद से इस्तीफा देना पड़ा, जिसके बाद उन्होंने एक्शन तहरीक की बुनियाद डाली, जिसने अवामी एक्शन कमेटी को समर्थन दे दिया। दूसरी ओर अवामी एक्शन कमेटी को नए अध्यक्ष मौलाना सुल्तान रईस मिल गए, जो सुन्नी मौलवी हैं और जिनके कुख्यात संगठन सिपह-ए-सहाबा से निकले देवबंदी संगठन अहले सुन्नत वल जमात (एएसडब्ल्यूजे) से करीबी रिश्ते हैं। एएसडब्ल्यूजे की गिलगित-बाल्टिस्तान शाखा के मुखिया काजी नसीर अहमद से मौलाना की नजदीकियों से कोई अनजान नहीं है फिर भी उनकी वाक्पटुता और लोगों को कायल करने की क्षमता ने लोगों को उनका मुरीद बना दिया है।
रईस जैसे पाकिस्तान समर्थक नेताओं के जरिये गिलगित-बाल्टिस्तान जनांदोलनों में घुसपैठ कर पाकिस्तानी सरकार ने लोगों को पाकिस्तान के साथ रहने के पक्ष में कर लिया है। इन विरोध प्रदर्शनों की गहरी पड़ताल करने से यह समझने में मदद मिलेगी कि रईस की अगुआई में अवामी एक्शन कमेटी कैसे लोगों के मन पर काबू करने में तो कामयाब हुई ही है, सत्ता की मनचाही राह पर लोगों को चलाने में भी उसे सफलता किस तरह मिली है।
अवामी एक्शन कमेटी गिलगित-बाल्टिस्तान में विवाद की बात को मानती है और गाहे-बगाहे ऐसे मुद्दे उठाती भी रही है, जो लोगों को सीधे प्रभावित करते हैं। मौलाना रईस ने अपने एक बयान में कहा था, “गिलगित-बाल्टिस्तान विवादित इलाका है और इसके नागरिकों पर कर लादना गैर-कानूनी तथा असंवैधानिक है। जब सरकार गिलगित-बाल्टिस्तान की जनता से कर वसूलना चाहती है तो उन्हें देश का नागरिक करार दे दिया जाता है और जब वे समान अधिकार मांगते हैं तो कहा जाता है कि यह विवादित क्षेत्र है।” फिर भी यह संगठन मानता है कि गिलगित-बाल्टिस्तान की समस्याओं का एक ही हल है - पाकिस्तान में विलय।
हालिया प्रदर्शनों की प्रकृतिः “टैक्स दो हुकूक लो” का मतलब
आदेश सार्वजनिक होने के फौरन बाद जब विरोध प्रदर्शनों में अलग-अलग गुटों के लोगों ने अपने मतभेद भुलाकर समान उद्देश्य के लिए जबरदस्त एकता दिखाई तो अवामी एक्शन लीग ने (अंजुमन-ए-ताजिरान के साथ मिलकर) पूरे गिलगित-बाल्टिस्तान में बंद का ऐलान कर दिया।
“टैक्स दो हुकूक लो” और “नो टैक्सेशन विदआउट रिप्रेजेंटेशन” जैसे नारे प्रदर्शनकारियों को जुटाने का जरिया बन गए। ‘हुकूक’ शब्द के यहां दो व्यापक अर्थ हैं। पहला अर्थ बहुमत के इस नजरिये से जुड़ा है कि गिलगित-बाल्टिस्तान को पांचवें प्रांत के तौर पर प्रतिनिधित्व (संसद में सीटें और आम चुनावों में मतदान का अधिकार) और संवैधानिक मान्यता दी जानी चाहिए। दूसरा राष्ट्रवादियों (जिनकी संख्या बहुत कम है) का नजरिया है, जो ऊपर बताए गए अधिकारों की ही मांग करता है। राष्ट्रवादी आगे चलकर संयुक्त राष्ट्र द्वारा अधिकृत जनमत संग्रह के जरिये पाकिस्तान से आजादी चाहते हैं क्योंकि उन्हें लगता है कि निष्पक्ष जनमत संग्रह होने पर गिलगित-बाल्टिस्तान की जनता पाकिस्तान से आजादी का रास्ता ही चुनेगी। राष्ट्रवादियों के अनुसार गिलगित-बाल्टिस्तान का पाकिस्तान समर्थक रुख आतंकवाद विरोधी अधिनियम, 1997 की धारा 4 जैसे कठोर कदमों का नतीजा है।
भारत का पहलू
भारतीय मीडिया द्वारा की गई व्यापक कवरेज को देखते हुए और प्रदर्शन विवादित क्षेत्र में होने के कारण भारत का पहलू भी विरोध गहराने के साथ गहराता गया। किंतु विरोधाभास भी उभरने लगे।
प्हले तो भारतीय मीडिया के कारण ही पाकिस्तानी मीडिया भी हरकत में आया क्योंकि भारत की ओर से खबरें आने से पहले दो दिन तक तो वह विरोध की अनदेखी ही करता रहा। फिर भी भारतीय मीडिया की भूमिका के कारण ही पाकिस्तान सरकार की नजरों में आने वाली अवामी एक्शन कमेटी ने गिलगित शहर में भारत-विरोधी जुलूस निकाला क्योंकि उसके मुताबिक भारत मुद्दे पर बेजा ध्यान दे रहा था।
एक ओर गिलगित-बाल्टिस्तान के मुख्यमंत्री ने विरोध करने वालों को भारतीय एजेंट करार दिया, लेकिन दूसरी ओर सत्ता समर्थक मौलवी की अगुआई वाली अवामी एक्शन कमेटी ने उन्हीं प्रदर्शनकारियों को इकट्ठा किया। इसकी व्याख्या इस वैकल्पिक सिद्धांत से हो सकती है कि विरोध प्रदर्शन संभवतः एजेंसियों के इशारे पर यह जांचने के लिए किए गए हों कि पांचवें प्रांत के मकसद के लिए गिलगित-बाल्टिस्तान के लोगों में कितनी एकता है।
पाकिस्तान सरकार संयुक्त राष्ट्र के उस प्रस्ताव से वाकिफ है, जिसमें पाकिस्तान से कहा गया है कि कश्मीर विवाद के समाधान की दिशा में पहला कदम उठाते हुए वह अपने कब्जे वाले कश्मीर (पीओके) से सेना हटाए। लेकिन वह गिलगित-बाल्टिस्तान के निवासियों को यह जताने की कोशिश कर रहा है कि प्रांत का दर्जा हासिल करने और पूर्ण अधिकार प्राप्त करने की उनकी आकांक्षा को भारत पूरा नहीं होने दे रहा है।
अगला विश्वसनीय कदम, जिस पर पाकिस्तान सरकार अभी विचार कर रही है, ऐसी संवैधानिक व्यवस्था से जुड़ा है, जिसमें गिलगित-बाल्टिस्तान को शक्ति हस्तांतरण एवं राष्ट्रीय प्रतिनिधित्व से संबंधित 2009 के संवैधानिक आदेश से कुछ बेहतर हासिल हो सके। इस संभावना पर पिछले हफ्ते पाकिस्तानी संसद में चर्चा की गई थी, लेकिन अधिक प्रगति नहीं हो सकी। दूसरी ओर भारत सरकार पाकिस्तान के कब्जे वाले कश्मीर के मामले में अपने रुख पर अड़ी हुई है और (चीन का पाकिस्तान आर्थिक गलियारा गिलगित-बाल्टिस्तान से होकर निकाले जाने के विरोध में) चीन के बेल्ट एंड रोड कार्यक्रम का बहिष्कार तक कर चुकी है। लेकिन गिलगित-बाल्टिस्तान मसले पर वह अभी तक कोई सुसंगत नीति तैयार नहीं कर पाई है।
(लेखक विवेकानंद रिसर्च फाउंडेशन, नई दिल्ली में रिसर्च एसोसिएट हैं। लेख में उनके निजी विचार हैं और वीआईएफ का उनसे सहमत होना आवश्यक नहीं है)
In the new year, Japan under Shinzo Abe faces many challenges on the foreign policy front. Some of these are perennial problems and others are relatively new.
Among the continuing challenges is the threat of North Korea and its ballistic missile and nuclear arsenals. Japan has had bitter experience in this regard as the Kim regime has regularly shot missiles directly over the Japanese islands and into the Japan Sea. In this context, India has been a staunch supporter of the Japanese position; this was witnessed in the joint statements issued after Abe's visit to India in September and during Modi's visit to Japan in 2016 November. This cooperation is set to continue.
China, and the delicate relations both India and Japan have with the Middle Kingdom will remain a focus of both countries. Japan needs China's help to rein-in Pyongyang, though Japan itself continues to face Chinese threats over the Japanese Senkaku Islands claimed by China. India has supported the Japanese position in this matter.
Though both Abe and Modi have good relations with President Trump, India and Japan will continue to exchange views on how to handle the somewhat erratic turns in US policy. They both have important defense and strategic connections with the USA, bilaterally and in a triangular way as well.
South Korea is one of the other problem areas for Japan. The recrudescence of the 'comfort women’ issue and the expressed intention of the Korean leaders to have a second look at the 2015 Agreement has caused widespread indignation in Japan. India has strong economic and strategic relationship with Korea. It will be in our mutual interest to help Japan and Korea overcome their differences on this emotive issue.
Russia has good relations with India going back decades but Japan has yet to sign a peace treaty with Russia since the end of the war in 1945! This is so despite good relations between Abe and Putin.
2018 will see a further strengthening of defence ties between India and Japan. Starting in 2000, with PM Vajpayee and Modi at the helm, the two countries have seen expansion of cooperation between the two navies, coast guards and other branches of our defence forces every year. The Malabar naval exercises among USA, Japan and India are now an annual event.
The largest ever was held in July 2017 and 2018 is likely to see an even more elaborate show of force.
Abe mooted a quadrilateral connection between India, Japan, Australia and the USA when he spoke to our Parliament in August 2007. His vision became a reality when the four powerful naval nations met on the occasion of the ASEAN Summit in Manila and the East Asia Summit which followed. With the Philippines too India has a growing naval cooperation programme.
Japan will continue to build on the foundations of its work in our North East where it is assisting in extending the infrastructure of roads, railways and waterways. The objective of both India and Japan in this strategically important part of India is to improve connectivity with Myanmar and the larger ASEAN region. Both Japan and India pay highest attention to strengthening ties with all ten ASEAN countries. Presence of leaders of all ASEAN countries in Delhi on the occasion of the Republic Day on the 26th January 2018 dramatically underlines India’s commitment to this vital region. Abe himself showed his seriousness of purpose when after his electoral victory in December 2012, he went to Vietnam in January 2013 and in the space of that one year went to all 10 ASEAN nations.
In November 2016 and September 2017, both Abe and Modi affirmed their partnership in the development of Africa. Mombasa has been identified as the port which will facilitate the entry of Japanese and Indian capital, matrial and human, to assist in growth of African economies.
The underlying principle of India's work with Japan is to ensure the safety and freedom of the seas, to advance the cause of open societies adhering to the rule of law and to discourage hegemonic ambitions in the Indo-Pacific region and beyond.
(The author is a retired Foreign Service Officer and a regarded analyst)
(Views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the VIF)
What does India’s Economic Survey 2017-18 tell us about national security? This may sound an unusual question because in traditional understanding of national security and economy are two separate entities which are not discussed together. The two concepts do not meet except when it comes to providing resources for defence and law and order functions. Economic Surveys do not generally talk about national security.
However, with a broader understanding of national security emerging, it is now a realized that a country must have a sound economy if it has to have robust national security. Economy is the basis of national security. Weak economies are prone to high degree of security risk. Failed states have been recognized as breeding grounds for terrorism, drug running, human trafficking and similar destabilizing factors. Jobs, gender, skills, science and technology, agriculture, climate change, external trade and resources are part of national security discourse today. These are the issues which the Economic Survey deals with in detail. Therefore, the watchers of national security trends should read carefully what the Economic Survey has to say about the health of national economy because of its direct impact on national security
The Economic Survey is upbeat on immediate prospects of economic growth. It estimates that the economy is likely to grow by 7 to 7.5 percent in the year 2018-19. This is good news for the country. But the Survey also cautions that the high oil prices and the likely steep correction in the exuberant and expansive Indian stock market can adversely impact economic growth. The twin balance sheet problem – the weak balance sheets of the banks and that of their clients to whom they have lent – has not been resolved as yet although some steps have been taken in this area. Further, it cautions that the cycle of low investment and low saving rates continues. Investment seems to be picking up but these are still early days. This means that higher economic growth rates cannot be taken for granted.
Hopefully, the higher economic growth that the Survey talks about will translate into more revenues for the Government, leading to greater allocations for defence, diplomacy and internal security. However, the revenues of the Government depend upon receipts, which essentially means higher collection of taxes.
The introduction of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) has led to a fundamental restructuring of the indirect taxation system in the country. The Economic Survey has a whole chapter on the GST. Its findings are clear. After the initial hiccups, the GST system is stabilizing. This is good news. But we will probably have to wait a few more months to be sure of how much steady revenue will be generated by the GST. Last few months’ collections have been fluctuating. These revenues will have to be divided between the Center and the States. At the moment one can be sure that there has been a healthy increase in the number of indirect tax payers. One can be reasonably hopeful that the impact of GST on national security will be positive because the Government will have a steady stream of revenues which would only increase as the economy grows.
On the direct taxation front, the situation is not so sanguine. The worry here is that tax to GDP ratio in India is only little above 10 percent, one of the lowest in the world. More people need to be brought in the tax net. Some improvement has taken place but we will have to see where there is buoyancy in direct tax collections next year. The Survey also underlines a worrying trend that tier 2 and tier 3 tax collection local authorities are under-collecting the taxes within their powers.
The Economic Survey points to four “headwinds” the Indian economy might face in the near future, namely: Reduced opportunities for exports due to rising protectionism following a backlash against globalization; difficulties in transferring resources from low productivity to higher productivity sectors due to structural factors; lack of human capital needed against demands of the high-technology knowledge economy: and, stress on agriculture due to climate change. These are long-term challenges which will not go away immediately. The country will have to be take many steps to address these challenges.
It is ironic that despite having had a superb record of high quality contributions to world science, India is nowhere near being a global leader in this area. On the technology front, India is a net importer of technology. Brain drain is rampant. A highly intelligent workforce available in the country is being used by foreign companies who are global leaders. Our record in becoming self-reliant in strategic sectors and strategic technologies is below par except in a few fields like space and atomic energy. The country has not been able to build a proper innovation system which can encourage and absorb the desi inventors and innovators.
The Economic Survey has done well to flag the low spending – less than 1 percent of GDP - in the R&D sector. This has direct bearing on national security. Other countries spend much higher percentage of GDP on R&D. Today, the country is importing nearly 70 percent of its defence needs and it has virtually zero indigenous cyber security industry. The Economic Survey says categorically that spending on R&D should be doubled. Additional resources for science and technologies should come from the private sector and universities. It recommends that in addition to the ease of doing business, the country should create a climate for “ease of doing science”. It makes a vital point: India should invest in science and mathematics education, and take a “more mission-driven approach in areas such as dark matter, genomics, energy storage, agriculture, mathematics and cyber physical systems.” These are eminent suggestions which will not only improve the economy but also the national security.
Although the Economic Survey does not say it explicitly, climate change is a major national security threat. Adverse consequences of climate change on agriculture have been dealt with in the Economic Survey in detail. The Survey cites research to the effect that warming of the climate can lead up to 25 percent reduction in crop yields in unirrigated areas. Extreme weather events would become more frequent leading to huge dislocations and more expenditure on disaster management.
Gender issues are an important part of security discourse today. It is the women and children who bear the brunt of wars, migrations, violence, draughts, floods, pandemics and famines. The Economic Survey has some interesting analysis of the gender gap in the country, and of missing female children. The fact remains that discrimination against women, inherent in our socio-economic structures, weakens the country. It is not enough to worship the female as Shakti, it is equally important to empower her. A country cannot count to be strong unless half of its population is cared for.
The key take away from the Economic Survey is that the structure of the Indian economy is changing rapidly both due to a string of fundamental economic reforms undertaken in the last few years and because of the external factors like the relentless march of technology and the global uncertainty about oil prices which are linked to geopolitics. The Economic Survey puts forward a balanced and reasonable analysis of the Indian economy. It offers hope for economic recovery but also cautions about the pitfalls. National security rests on good economic performance. One hopes that the next edition of Economic Survey will have a chapter on national security also.
(Views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the VIF)
Liberia is a country in West Africa which is bordered by Sierra Leone, Guinea and Ivory Coast with an area of 111,369 square kilometers and population of approximately 4.6 million people. It has a republic system of government where the president is the chief of state and head of the government. The country is in the process of reconstructing a mixed economy. This will encompass restricted form of individual freedom merged with weak centralised economic planning and government directives. Liberia is a member of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). For fourteen years the country remained under civil war and during this phase of conflict more than 250,000 people died and around 1.3 million people were displaced from their homes.
Political Scenario in Liberia
Liberia has faced a turbulent history marred by years of civil war and the 2014 Ebola epidemic. The country has not witnessed a peaceful transition of power since 1944. Mrs. Sirleaf became the first woman to be elected the Head of State in Africa in 2005. The country faced two civil wars, first from 1989 to 1996 and the second which occurred from 1999 to 2003. Mrs. Sirleaf, in her 12 years of power, tried to make the country a better place to live in, as the two civil wars had left Liberia; once a moderately prosperous country, in ruins. For her contribution to democracy, she was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2011. Despite her efforts, the country remains one of the world’s poorest and she has been criticised over constant poverty and corruption charges. Half of the population of Liberia remains poor and about half of them suffer from inadequate food security. Generating employment remains the country’s most important domestic priority.
On the 26th of December 2017, the country experienced the first peaceful transition of power in 73 years. After the completion of two terms of Ellen Sirleaf Johnson, a former international footballer Mr. George Weah was elected President of Liberia. It was Mr. Weah’s second attempt at the presidency as a candidate. In 2006, he lost his first attempt to Mrs. Sirleaf. The Liberians were commended by the United Nations Security Council for the conflict-free conduct of elections. Apart from its people and government, the Security Council has also praised the political leaders and civil society organizations for their commendable job. Also, the media was applauded for the peaceful conduct of elections.
India-Liberia Relations at a Glance
India-Liberia relations date back over six decades of strong bonds of friendship and economic cooperation. It was President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the first Head of State from Liberia to visit India in the year 2013 when the following agreements were signed between the two countries:
• Joint Commission between both the nations were established; • MoU between Foreign Service Institutes of both the nations; • In the field of Oil and Gas - MoU on cooperation; • Decision regarding funding of power transmission and distribution project in Liberia, with an agreement between Exim Bank and Government of Liberia for a Line of Credit of US$ 144 million.
Prior to this, the only visit was by President Samuel Doe in 1983, that too, to attend the Non-Alignment Summit held in Delhi. In the year 2009, Dr. Shashi Tharoor visited Liberia which was the first visit by an Indian Foreign Minister since 1971, where he brought to limelight the interest of several Indian companies in various economic sectors for development - as Liberia is rich in mineral resources. Moreover, the country is rich in agricultural resources like rubber, coffee and cocoa. In 2015, Minister of State, Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises, Mr. G Siddeshwara went to Liberia personal invitation of Prime Minister’s to invite Mrs. Sirleaf for the third India Africa Forum (IAFS) Summit at New Delhi. During her address in the IAFS, she thanked the Indian Government and its people for the support that India had extended to Liberia to combat the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD). She mentioned that the level of trade between the two countries continues to expand and access to India’s Duty Free Tariff Preferred Status enhances the partnership further.
At present, there are around 2000 Indian nationals settled in Liberia. Initially, the Indian community was mainly engaged in trading industries, however; nowadays, the diaspora is also moving towards manufacturing sector. The diaspora has made substantial contributions to the Liberian economy and the trade during the year 2016-17 stood at US$153.96 million. The main items of export to Liberia are pharmaceuticals products, food items, steel, iron, plastic, etc. - while wood, metals scrap and natural rubber are the items that India imports from Liberia. In the year 2017 -18, India provided 70 training slots to Liberia under the Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) Programme. The Indian Council of Cultural Relations also granted fully paid scholarships to six person for post-graduation. Liberia has shown its complete support for India’s desire for a permanent membership of the United Nation Security Council. In addition, India’s contribution of two contingents to United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL), both 125-member strong has been well appreciated by Liberia. It was in the year 2007, that the first-ever women’s contingent of United Nation Peacekeeping i.e. the Female Formed Police Unit (FFPU) was sent to the United Nations Mission in Liberia.
To further strengthen the relationship, a significant role can be played by the establishment of an Indian Embassy in Liberia. India does not have a Liberian Mission in New Delhi. The opening of a Mission will give both the nations an edge to facilitate the bilateral movement of people and goods. This, in the long run will propel and promote business relationships between the two nations.
At present, the country looks forward for a better and efficient leadership of George Weah. It would not be an exaggeration to say that much is expected from the newly-elected president to make his country a better place to live in. A wise man once said “With great power comes great responsibility” -- a quote which couldn’t have been a better yardstick for Mr. Weah and his country in the months ahead.
(Views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the VIF)
On January 18, 2018, the personnel of the Indian armed forces test-fired the 5,000-km-plus Agni-5 Interim Range Ballistic Missile (IRBM). The test, conducted from Kalam Island in the Bay of Bengal, achieved all the mission parameters that had been stipulated. The last test of Agni-5 had been conducted on December 26, 2016. After additional user trials over the next twelve to eighteen months, the nuclear-capable Agni-5 missile will be inducted into India’s Strategic Forces Command (SFC). Normally, five to seven tests are carried out, including technical trials and user trials, before a missile is inducted into the arsenal. On the operationalisation of Agni-5, all targets in China will come within range from India. The Chinese are reported to be concerned at this development.
The 4,000-km Agni-4 IRBM was successfully test-fired by personnel of the SFC from the same launch facility on January 2, 2017. After these two tests, the credibility of India’s nuclear deterrence received a good boost.
Under the aegis of its Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme (IGMDP), which was approved by the Government on 26 July 1983, India has achieved considerable success in ballistic missile development. The Prithvi Short Range Ballistic Missile (SRBM) (1-metre diameter, 150 km to 350 km range, liquid-fuelled) and the multiple models of Agni IRBM (800 km to 5,000 km range, solid-fuelled) have provided India with an assured retaliation capability. Though exact details are not known in the public domain, DRDO spokespersons have shared sufficient information to allow for an assessment of the missiles’ capabilities. While the Agni-5 is still under development, the Agni- 4 is reported to be ready for deployment. According to a Ministry of Defence press release, ‘Agni-3 was inducted to strengthen India’s strategic might and joined Agni-1, Agni-2, Prithvi-2 and Dhanush (the naval version of Prithvi capable of being launched from ships even under rough sea conditions).’
Agni IRBMs are the mainstay of the surface-to-surface leg of India’s strategic forces. With the exception of the Agni-1, all Agni missiles are fully solid-fuelled with carbon composite heat shields for re-entry protection. All of the Agni variants are known to be extremely accurate and use navigation systems based on a combination of ring laser gyros and inertial navigation. Presently, at least two Agni missile groups are reported to be in service.
India’s successful experience in space research, particularly the launch of multiple satellites on a single rocket, has endowed the scientists with the capability to master MIRV (multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicles) technology. In view of the R&D developments in China, it was considered expedient to commence a research programme on MIRV systems as a technology demonstrator. Costing Rs. 100 crore per missile, the Agni-5, with a range of 5,000 km-plus, is known to be capable of carrying MIRV warheads. At its maximum range, the Agni-5 can reach even Harbin, China’s northernmost city (according to Chinese officials, the maximum range of Agni-5 is 8,000 km). A canisterised version of the Agni-5 was first test-fired on January 15, 2015. The process of canisterisation means the warhead will be mated with the missile for storage, not stored separately and mounted on the missile shortly before launch.
Dr V K Saraswat, a former DRDO chief, said the Agni-5 had ‘ushered in fantastic opportunities in…building Anti-Satellite (ASAT) weapons and launching mini/micro satellites on demand’. The Agni-5, like Dongfeng 31A, is a canisterised, road mobile missile. According to Avinash Chander, director, Advanced Systems Laboratory, Hyderabad, ‘With the canister having been successfully developed, all India’s future land-based strategic missiles will be canisterised as well.’ The DRDO is also reported to have plans to develop the Agni-6 Inter-Continental Ballistic Missile (ICBM), which will be capable of carrying a 3-ton payload of MIRVs and manoeuvrable re-entry vehicles (MaRVs). The range of this missile, made of light weight composite materials, is expected to be over 5,500 km. However, the existence of such a programme has been officially denied.
Prithvi-1 (150 km-range), Prithvi-2 (250 km, IAF version) and Prithvi-3 (350 km) Surface to Surface Missiles (SSM) are all nuclear-capable. Prithvi missiles are liquid fuelled with strap-down inertial guidance and a manoeuvrable trajectory; accuracies are claimed to be in single digits and the circular error probability (CEP) is likely to be less than 100 metre. These dual-use missiles are capable of carrying 500 kg to 1,000 kg warheads. It is now being increasingly believed that the Prithvi-1 missile was never intended to carry nuclear warheads. Six Prithvi missile groups are reported to be in service.
As soon as the Agni-1 regiments are fully operational and the missiles have been produced in the required numbers, it should be possible to retire the Prithvi missiles from service with the SFC. However, these missiles are likely to continue to be used for conventional conflict and as part of the ballistic missile defence (BMD) technology development programme till these become obsolete. A modified Prithvi missile is the interceptor in the Prithvi Air Defence (PAD) system for exo-atmospheric interception. It is also used as a target for an incoming missile.
India has a few other missiles in its arsenal. The Dhanush SSM is a ship-to-surface variant of Prithvi-3 with a maximum range of 350 km, while Nirbhay is a subsonic (Mach 0.7) cruise missile with a maximum range of 1,000 km. Of the Tomahawk and Kh-57 class, it carries a 450 kg high-explosive warhead and was successfully tested in November 2017. Prahar is a highly manoeuvrable, precision-strike tactical SSM with a range of 150 km and is armed with a conventional warhead. Comparable to the US Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS), it has been conceived as a quick-reaction battlefield support weapon system that fills the range gap between multi-barrel rocket launchers (MBRLs) and SRBMs. All of these missiles have been indigenously developed by the Aeronautical Development Establishment (ADE), Bengaluru, and have been produced by Bharat Dynamics Limited (BDL), Secunderabad. The rate of production of Agni missiles is reported to be twelve to eighteen per annum.
India does not maintain its missile launchers on hair-trigger alerts as India’s ‘no first use’ posture does not require launch-on-warning (LoW) and launch-through-attack (LTA) capabilities. Alert levels are planned to be progressively raised based on intelligence inputs or for the purpose of signalling. As India shares its western boundary with Pakistan, the time of flight of ballistic missiles ranges from eight to thirteen minutes for a target between 600 km and 2,000 km away. Deployment sites – hides and firing positions – are selected keeping this in mind, besides other tactical parameters. Depending on the level of alert being maintained, preparation time for launch can vary from one to four hours. When deployed, missile batteries would be provided logistics support by the nearest field formation of the Army and helped with their local defence where feasible.
(The writer is Visiting Fellow, VIF and Distinguished Fellow, Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA), New Delhi)
(Views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the VIF)