Irresponsible India’s ambitious missile program | By Sultan M Hali


Irresponsible India’s ambitious missile program

INDIA tested the indigenously-developed ship-borne weapon system, Vertical Launch Short Range Surface to Air Missile (VL-SRSAM) amidst fanfare on August 23, 2022.

Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh congratulated the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and Indian Navy for the successful flight test and said the missile will prove to be a force multiplier for the Navy.

Earlier, India announced that despite severe western sanctions on Russia after its invasion of Ukraine and the promulgation of US federal law CAATSA, its acquisition of the Russian S-400 missile system is continuing as per schedule.

Russia had started the delivery of the first regiment of the S-400 in December 2021 while it began supplying the second one in April 2022.

Following the delivery of the first two batches, India has deployed the missile system in such a way that it can cover parts of the border with China in the northern sector as well as the frontier with Pakistan.

There were apprehensions that owing to the Russia-Ukraine War, the delivery of the remaining part of the deal may be delayed but Russia negated any impact of the western sanctions against it on the supply of the S-400 to India.

The Missile Defence System has a 400 km range and can engage and destroy 80 targets simultaneously, including destroying incoming aircraft and ballistic missiles.

Apparently, induction of the S-400 systems would tremendously boost India’s air defence, as well as its missile defence capability.

Indian official sources claim that deployment of all five systems would be completed by the end of 2022 to defend New Delhi, Mumbai and other major assets.

They claim that the S-400 will play an essential role in their ambitious Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD) system, comprising an outer layer based on the indigenous Prithvi Aerial Defence (PAD) for tackling high altitude threats combined with an Advanced Aerial Defence (AAD) for meeting lower altitude assaults.

The S-400, the keystone of India’s BMD system forms the second layer. The third layer comprises the Israeli origin Barak-8 missiles while another indigenous area defence missile the Aakash provides the fourth layer.

To deal with any ambitious attacker, which has evaded the first four layers, will be met head on by the National Advanced Surface to Air Missile System (NASAMS-II) establishing the innermost fifth layer.

Prima facie this is a very formidable air defence system and likely to have a direct effect on the nuclear deterrence equation between India and Pakistan.

The resulting imbalance is theoretically going to render India invulnerable to the incoming missile attacks, which may embolden the Indian defence planners to indulge in adventurism against Pakistan like it did on February 26, 2019, which had backfired for India in the geo-military sense but Narendra Modi’s team of spin doctors had spun it around with a web of lies and false claims, earning a political victory for him in the 2019 polls.

Privately, after the debacle India had faced in the February 27, 2019 showdown with Pakistan, Narendra Modi had rued the absence of the Russian S-400 Missile defence system and French Rafael fighter aircraft.

Now that the attainment process of both weapons systems—the former defensive and the latter offensive—is ongoing, India feels it is capable of tackling possible threats from China as well as Pakistan.

Unable to curb its mindset of chest thumping and jingoism, some xenophobic Indian political leaders are calling the S-400 a “game changer”, claiming that India now possesses the capacity of intercepting Pakistani Air Force (PAF) aircraft within Pakistani airspace thus decapacitating PAF even before it launches assaults against Indian targets.

Some Indian armchair pundits boast that the BMD air defence system makes India “impregnable” as well as provides it the capability of launching a preemptive first strike capability against Pakistan, pulverizing its nuclear arsenal and delivery capability.

The truth is that the Indian trajectory of missile tests and acquisition is pockmarked with failures, bloopers and bumbling.

On March 9, 2022, a supersonic projectile that originated in India had trespassed 124 kilometers at 40,000 feet into Pakistani airspace and crashed near the city of Mian Channu, Khanewal District, Pakistan.

Two days later, India’s Ministry of Defence belatedly confirmed the incident, stating that a missile was “accidentally” fired during routine maintenance.

India’s misadventure of firing a supersonic cruise missile at Pakistan, its nuclear-armed adversary, could have led to serious repercussions.

Pakistan acted maturely but had raised the issue diplomatically. Resultantly, India sacked three officers of the Indian Air Force (IAF), scapegoating them by fixing their culpability in deviating from SOPs which led to the “Accidental firing of a BrahMos missile on March 09, 2022.

” Pakistan Foreign Office not only rejected the results of the one-sided Court of Inquiry in which India failed to respond to Pakistan’s demand for a joint inquiry and evaded the questions raised by Pakistan regarding the command-and-control system in place in the country, the safety and security protocols and the reason for Delhi’s delayed admission of the missile launch.

Islamabad reiterated that “Systemic loopholes and technical lapses of serious nature in handling of strategic weapons cannot be covered up beneath the veneer of individual human error.

If indeed India has nothing to hide then it must accept Pakistan’s demand for a joint probe in the spirit of transparency.

” Missile disasters are not new in India. In November 2015, a major aviation disaster was in the offing, when Indian Navy test fired several lethal surface-to-surface missiles above the Arabian Sea as the airspace remained open to air traffic, horrifying the world.

In a fit of frenzy over its debacle against Chinese troops in October 2020, India test fired ten different missile systems. The bid to cow down China could have easily backfired and caused a serious accident.

The list of failed Indian missiles is long but no lessons have been learnt by the jingoistic and irresponsible South Asian wannabe power. Agni II failed to reach target thrice during the testing phase; Agni III and IV too failed tests.

Brahmos failed initial tests. ‘Nirbhay’ was unsuccessful in acquiring its target. India’s irresponsible behaviour cannot be condoned.

—The Author is a Retired Group Captain of PAF, who has written several books on China.


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