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China Questions India’s Agni V Missile Project

  • IAS NEXT, Lucknow
  • 04, Oct 2021
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Recently, China has cited a United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolution to question India’s missile programme amid reports of an upcoming test for the Agni-V intercontinental ballistic missile.

  • UNSC Resolution 1172 was issued after India’s 1998 nuclear tests.

Key Points

  • About Agni V Missiles:
    • Agni-V is the most advanced surface-to-surface indigenously built ballistic missile.
    • It is a three-stage, solid fuelled, 17-metre tall missile, and is capable of carrying a nuclear warhead of about 1.5 tonnes.
    • Agni-V is a fire and forget missile, which once fired cannot be stopped, except by an interceptor missile.
    • It has been developed under the Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme (IGMDP).
      • IGMDP was conceived by Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam to enable India attain self-sufficiency in the field of missile technology. It was approved by the Government of India in 1983 and completed in March 2012.
      • The 5 missiles (P-A-T-N-A) developed under this program: Prithvi, Agni, Trishul, Nag, Akash.
    • Agni Class of Missiles:
  • They are the mainstay of India’s nuclear launch capability.
  • Range:
  • Agni I: Range of 700-800 km.
  • Agni II: Range more than 2000 km.
  • Agni III: Range of more than 2,500 Km
  • Agni IV: Range is more than 3,500 km and can fire from a road mobile launcher.
  • Agni-V: The longest of the Agni series, an Inter-Continental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) with a range of over 5,000 km.
  • Agni-P (Prime) : It is a canisterised missile with range capability between 1,000 and 2,000 km. It will replace the Agni I missile.
  • The missile has been successfully tested five times and is in the process of induction into the Army.
  • Very few countries, including the US, China, Russia, France and North Korea, have InterContinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBM).
  • ICBM is a land-based, nuclear-armed ballistic missile with a range of more than 5,600 km.
  • About UNSC resolution 1172:
    • The resolution, in the aftermath of the 1998 nuclear tests that calls upon India and Pakistan immediately:
      • To stop their nuclear weapon development programmes,
      • To refrain from weaponization or from the deployment of nuclear weapons,
      • To cease development of ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons and any further production of fissile material for nuclear weapons,
      • To confirm their policies not to export equipment, materials or technology that could contribute to weapons of mass destruction or missiles capable of delivering.
  • Issues in Chinese Claims:
    • Agni V has received wide attention in the Chinese press with focus on the detail that the 5,000 km-range nuclear-capable missile would bring many cities in China within range.
    • While citing the resolution regarding India’s missile programme, China has, in contrast, been aiding the development of Pakistan’s nuclear and missile programmes.
      • China has been providing enriched uranium and even technology for nuclear-capable missiles.
    • Further, in 2018, China had sold Pakistan a tracking system to speed up development of multi-warhead missiles.

Way Forward

  • India needs to be far more active in insisting that a comprehensive nuclear dialogue with China is essential for strategic stability across Asia.
    • China will be hesitant to enter into such a dialogue, as it wishes to not formally accord recognition to India’s nuclear weapons status, even as it peddles nuclear weapons and ballistic missile designs and materials to Pakistan. These transfers to Pakistan are in total disregard of China’s responsibilities under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.
    • India has been far too defensive and avoided exposing the Sino-Pakistan nuclear/missile nexus in important world capitals. Within Asia, Chinese arrogance would need far closer consultations and dialogue with countries such as Japan, Vietnam and Indonesia