Ballistic Bulletins from Kahuta

26 Oct, 1999    ·   278

Wg Cdr NK Pant argues for the induction of Agni II in the proposed strategic command of the indian armed forces

Now that a coterie of generals presides over the destiny of Pakistan , India has to take a thorough stock of its security. It assumes utmost importance as Pakistan 's nuclear programme is under direct control of the military. Just a few weeks before General Pervez Musharraf's seizure of power, Pakistani press was agog announcing Islamabad's intentions to test a new 3000 kilometre range Ghauri III ballistic missile capable of hitting the whole of India. Curiously the promised launch did not come through but the Kahuta Research Laboratories (KRL) in a turnaround statement did reveal that the defence scientists instead, had successfully carried out the engine test of the long range missile to be equipped with nuclear warhead. The test was strangely monitored by Dr Abdul Qadir Khan whose expertise is better known in the field of nuclear science rather than those of rocketry and ballistics. Obviously, this non-event exposed the missing links in the highly overrated Pakistani nuclear and missile establishment whose claims do not match achievements.



Another news report had indicated the commencement of work on Shaheen-II, a solid fuelled 2400 km range missile which Islamabad intends to showcase as its answer to India ’s Agni II. It is reported to be variant of Chinese M-9 and being developed with Beijing ’s assistance by a different agency under Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC) outside the purview of AQ Khan. The work on the project was reportedly started soon after the Kargil conflict and will come to fruition within the astonishingly brief span of one year. Nowhere in the world has a ballistic missile project of this magnitude has been completed within such a short time frame. It either proves the unmatched capabilities and resourcefulness of Pakistani scientists or it is the screwdriver technology feverishly at work with imported Chinese and North Korean subassemblies. 



It is an open secret that Pakistan has been receiving shipments of missile components from North Korea from time to time under an agreement arrived at in 1995. According to the US intelligence reports, Pakistan had received several shipments of sophisticated weapons material from Pyongyang in 1998 including warhead canisters for the new Ghauri missiles being assembled with North Korean assistance. This was further confirmed when Indian customs officials during the Kargil operations had detained a North Korean ship clandestinely carrying missile parts to Karachi at Kandla port . 



Much before the North Koreans came on the scene, the Chinese had equipped the Pakistani arsenal with M-9 and M-11 missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads besides helping Pakistan in setting up an assembly line for their fabrication. CIA’s recently released annual national intelligence estimate on missile threat has confirmed the Chinese transfer of the deadly arsenal to Islamabad, considerably augmenting its capabilities to launch nuclear weapon carrier missile attacks on India. 



Presently Islamabad is busy in misleading the world opinion on India ’s recently announced proposed nuclear doctrine. The official circles in New Delhi have expressed the fear that the drubbing received by Pakistan in Kargil has led to possibility of a nuclear war looming large in the sub continent as Pakistan could resort to use of nuclear weapons in any future conflict with India . Hence the nation will have to take highly effective defensive and offensive counter measures to save itself from the possible nuclear holocaust.  



Despite being a nuclear weapon power, India definitely lacks a missile deterrence force. Its ‘Prithvi’ system is quite cumbersome due to liquid fuel propulsion. Only Agni II meets the parameters of deterrence but its development has been abysmally slow. One wonders why the politicians sat over its development for such a long time. The credit after all must go to the last BJP-led coalition government for finally breaking the impasse by giving the green signal to DRDO scientists for test firing of Agni II in April 1999. This intermediate range ballistic missile excels in crucial operational areas such as re-entry, long range manoeuvring, two phased propulsion and stage separation, besides having a remarkable circular error probability (CEP) which determine the missile’s strike accuracy. The distorted security scenario in the region calls for urgent steps for Agni II’s user trials followed by operational deployment in order to neutralise the upcoming Pakistani missile threat.  



It must be noted that the concept of a triad consisting missiles, submarines and long range aircraft as nuclear weapon carriers as referred to in the Indian nuclear doctrine is totally meaningless and hypothetical as presently none of the option is operationally available to the nation. For the sake of effective deterrence, at least what the new government must do for the present is to induct Agni II in the proposed strategic command of the Indian armed forces.