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Paper No. 47
            IN PERSPECTIVE

         On April 11,1999, India announced the successful test-firing of the Agni II missile with the following features:

  • It is a two-stage intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM) with a mobile launch capability and can cover a range of over 2,000 km in 11 minutes.
  • 20 metres long, weighs 16 tonnes, has a solid propulsion system and is designed to carry a "special weapons" payload of over 1,000 kgs.
  • It has sophisticated on-board packages and an advanced communications interface.

     The Government of India also announced that Pakistan, the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, Germany and Japan were given prior information of the proposed test-firing on April 9. International airlines and shipping services were also given prior notice to prevent any accidents.

         In a broadcast to the nation the same night, the Indian Prime Minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee, said: " As was the case with the nuclear tests at Pokhran in May last year, the test-firing of the Agni missile is also a purely defensive step. It is not meant for aggression against any nation. Rather, Agni is proof of our determination to strengthen our national security so comprehensively that we can defend ourselves. I have said earlier, and I reiterate, that India remains committed to minimum deterrence, to no first-use of nuclear weapons and never to use them against non-nuclear weapon states."

         He also said that the test was conducted in accordance with established international practices and was part of the Integrated Missile Development Programme.  He further said that India could not depend on others to defend her and added: " We have to develop our own indigenous capabilities. "  Briefing pressmen, George Fernandes, the Indian Defence Minister, said: "The Agni test has added a new dimension to our defence capabilities which have reached a point where no one from anywhere will dare to threaten us. He also said that the Agni missile had now reached a point of operationalisation . However, he did not comment on the production and deployment aspects.

         Till February 1994, there had been three "technology demonstrator" tests of the Agni missile and the April 11,1999, test was the first operational demonstrator test.

       The following aspects of the test need to be underlined:

  • It marked a clear rejection by India of the post-Pokhran calls from the US and other permanent members of the UN Security Council as well as from Germany and Japan for the non-weaponisation of India's nuclear capability and for the non-production of the required delivery capability.
  • It marked a significant step forward towards India's stated objective of a minimum nuclear deterrence in accordance with India's perceptions of a possible nuclear threat to it.
  • While pains were taken not to name any country as the motivating factor of India's action in acquiring this IRBM capability, it was essentially meant to give India a deterrent capability against China should the relations take a turn for the worse in the future.
  • As in the past, this test too was over the sea in order to avoid any danger to the civilian population and the required advance warnings were given to airlines and shipping services. In keeping with the understanding reached during the summit meeting of the Prime Ministers of India and Pakistan at Lahore in February, Pakistan was informed in advance. In addition, the five permanent members of the Security Council, Japan and Germany were also informed.  India's missile tests had never been clandestine and advance warnings had always been given to airlines and shipping services.
  • Agni II is a totally indigenous product and the test was a prelude to its serial production and deployment.

Before discussing the Pakistani response, certain aspects of the Pakistani missile programme have to be highlighted:

  • Past Pakistani tests, including that of the Ghauri I missile in April, 1998, were clandestine.
  • The tests were not of missiles produced indigenously, but of missiles secretly procured from China (M-11) and North Korea ( NODONG II ) in a ready-to-deploy and use form. These missiles had already been successfully test-fired in China and North Korea. The missiles were given Pakistani names and fired not to test them ,but to reassure the Pakistani population and to impress India that Pakistan already has a matching capability to the indigenous missiles being developed by India.
  • Since Pakistan had been vehemently denying the Chinese/North Korean origin of these missiles, it had to take precautions to prevent any part of the missile falling into the hands of  US and other Western powers after the impact, a possibility which is likely if the missiles were to be fired over the sea.
  • Therefore, at considerable risk to its population, Pakistan carried out its tests over land to ensure that the point of impact would be inside Pakistani territory.  This also obviated the need for alerting foreign airlines and shipping services.

      The Agni II test elicited the expected Pakistani  reiteration of its determination to give a matching response to India. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif told a press conference at Lahore on April 13: "Whatever the Indians wanted to do, they have done and they can be sure we will not compromise on our defence capabilities. Whatever we have in mind we will do and we will fulfill our obligation (to the Pakistani people)." Simultaneously, there were reports that Pakistan had informed India of its intention to test-fire its own missile and that the Pakistani response might be in the form of firing of two missiles--Ghauri II and Shaheen.

        On the morning of April 14, Pakistan announced the successful  firing of Ghauri II, an IRBM with a claimed range of over 2,000 KMs and capable of carrying a nuclear weapon. At the time of the recording of this note, no further details of the missile are available; nor is there any information about the expected firing of the Shaheen.

          The following comments are possible on the basis of the information available at the time of recording this note:

  • As with Ghauri I, Ghauri II was also fired over land from a mobile launcher and not over the sea.
  • It was fired from the Nathwala village in the Tilla ranges on the fringes of the Bunha river. The test ranges of the Armour Fighting Vehicles (AFV) are located  to the north-west of this village, which is near Jhelum. The AFV ranges have been placed under the control of the Kahuta Research Labs. Ghauri I was also  fired from the same ranges.

         Pakistan was reported to have bought from North Korea---partly for cash, partly for foodgrains and partly for fertilisers-- 12 Nodong II missiles-- with a range of 1,500 kms, a payload of 1,000 kgs, and a circular error probability of 800 metres. The missile is 15.5 metres long, with a diameter of 1.3 metres and a fuel (liquid) load of 16,000 kgs. It was first flight-tested by North Korea in 1995.

         After the arrival of this consignment, the Kahuta Research Labs fired one of the 12 missiles under the name Ghauri I on April 6,1998. Briefing pressmen after the firing, A.Q.Khan, the head of Pakistan's clandestine project for the procurement of nuclear and missile capabilities from abroad, stated that Ghauri I had covered a distance of 1,100 kms from near Jhelum in Punjab to Nushki in Balochistan in 8 minutes and carried a payload of 700 kgs only as against its capacity of 1,000 kgs. He also added that though the missile had a potential range of 1,500 kms, they fired it over a trajectory of 1,100 kms only to ensure that it impacted in Pakistani land territory and not in the sea.

         It is too early to identify the parentage of Ghauri II until one gets more details of its parameters. If Pakistani claim of a range of above 2,000 kms is correct, it could be the Taepo Dong I missile which is actually the Nodong II with the added boost of a Scud C. It was flight-tested by North Korea in 1997 and was used for the launching of a satellite by North Korea on August 31,1998, during which Pakistani missile experts were present.

         After Pakistan's Chagai nuclear tests last year, there was a war of words between A.Q.Khan and Dr.Samar Mubarak  Mand of the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission as to who should get the credit for the successful tests. The two scientists, in their attempts to convince pressmen, about their importance in the Pakistani nuclear and missile establishment, gave out a lot of details regarding the missile programme.

        According to Dr.Mubarak Mand, in addition to the Kahuta Research Lab of A.Q.Khan, the National Defence Complex (NDC) of which Dr.Mand is the Director-General, has also been entrusted with the responsibility of developing missiles. Whereas the Kahuta Lab was responsible for developing missiles with liquid fuel (North Korean), the NDC was responsible for missiles with solid fuel (Chinese). The NDC was developing two missiles called Shaheen I (700 kms ) and Shaheen II (2,000 Kms). While Shaheen I had already been ground-tested and was ready for flight-testing, Shaheen II was still in the design stage.

         According to Dr.A.Q.Khan, Nawaz Sharif did not want the Ghauri I to be flight-tested. (Author's comment: Presumably because he was afraid that this would reveal to the world Pakistan's missile and nuclear collaboration with North Korea). Nawaz wanted only the Shaheen to be flight-tested, but two tests failed. Thereafter, Nawaz asked A.Q.Khan to fire Ghauri I.

         Pakistan has so far test-fired three other missiles---Hatf I (Range 77 Kms, Payload 500 kgs ) in 1988, Hatf II (Range 250 Kms and payload 500 kgs) in 1989 and Hatf III  (Range variously stated at between 600 and 800 kms and payload 500 Kgs) on July 3,1997. According to Gen. (Retd) Mirza Aslam Beg, former Chief of the Army Staff, Hatf II is actually a free-flight rocket  with an inertial guidance system and Hatf III has a two-stage rocket with a war head separation mechanism, which can carry five different types of warheads, a terminal guidance system and a circular error probability of 0.1 per cent.  ("Dawn" of April 27, 1998) These missiles were developed and tested by the Pakistan Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission--SUPARCO.

B.RAMAN                                      14-4-99

(The writer is Additional Secretary (Retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, and presently, Director, Institute for Topical studies, Chennai,
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