India Evolving into a Geo-strategic Power


The nuclear warhead-enabled Agni V is the fifth in the series of medium and long-range missiles made in India in the past fifteen year

    • Agni V’s range

    • AGNI V range 5,000 km

    • or Payload 1,360.78 kg

    • I Heigh, 17 m

    • Wheeler Is.,

    • Indian  Oct isha

  • Future

1          . i
.1.        1,1       1,1
Range (km) 700 2,500 3.000
Payload (kg) 1,000 1,000 1,500
Height (m)15        20        16.3
Cymbolizing like a Tsunami as far
L.Jas thegeopolitical orientation is concerned; India recently tested some of the most futuristic strategic “dual use” technology, taking the whole debate in this part of the world to a different level.
The month saw India coming out with flying colors with successful launch of its much awaited Agni-V long-range ballistic nuclear-capable missile, nicknamed the ‘China killer’. India also launched its first indigenous radar satellitAIS_AT-1 by its old reliable “Space Horse” PSLV. Only this time the version was highly upgraded with ad­ditional propulsion boosters padded up with the original two stage PSLV. Add to this the sea power being buttressed with addition of new carrier platform called INS Teg.
In the light of all this we take up this discussion, where apart from delv­ing into the intricacies of the aforesaid technology; we also get into the para­digm shift that all this brings into the whole debate.
Is India making the “next” move in evolving itself into a global rather than regional geostrategic power?
The world sat up and took note of India’s Agni V missile-launch on April 19, even as Indian scientists celebrated the country’s first ICBM launch. Indeed, the Agni-V has a 5,000 km-range with 1500 kg payload and can deliver mul-

  • As per the expected line days after India tested its most potent Agni-V mis­sile, Pakistan on April 25 test-fired the nuclear-capable Hatf-4 ballistic missile with improvements in range to hit targets anywhere in India.
  • The military did not specify the exact range of the missile though sources told PTI that the Hatf-4’s reach had been increased from 750 km to 1,000 km. The missile, capable of carrying nuclear and conventional warheads, can reach targets deep within India. It is also known as Shaheen-1A
  • tiple warheads across the whole of Asia, 70 per cent of Europe, and Eastern Africa. This is India’s third consecutive strategic missile launch in three years. In February 2010, India had test-fired the Agni III, followed by the Agni-IV test in November 2011. While the Agni-III missile has a range of 3500 km, the Agni-IV’s 3000 km strike-distance bridged the gap between Agni­II (2000 km) and the Agni-III.
  • With this major leap in its strategic ca­jability, India joined an elite missile club of the US, Russia, France and —China, which produce Inter Continental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs).
  • Scientists and strategists welcomed the successful trial of Agni-V where it can reach targets anywhere, except for America and Australia.
  • The Quest for an ICBM Capability
  • The Agni-V launch is a significant milestone for the Indian scientific com­munity as this is the first missile with a strike-range covering major Chinese cities including Beijing and Shanghai. Some experts point out that it is not quite an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), as is being claimed in sections of the media. Going by the accepted classification of ballistic missiles, an ICBM must have a minimum range of at least 5500 km (even though the Chinese metric puts the figure at 8000 km). Technically, therefore, the Agni V is a medium-range ballistic missile (MRBN.1.1 and a “theatre weapon”.
  • In practical terms, however, India’s latest strategic missile covers an almost equal expanse to that of a “legit ICBM”. Indian scientists claim that, with suitable modifications, its range could even be increased to cover sites half-way across the world. They are understandably thrilled over the Agni-V’s successful launch, claiming that it makes India “a major missile power”. Soon after the launch, a visibly pleased Dr. V. K. Saraswat, Scientific Adviser to the Defence Minister dubbed the Agni V as a “game-changer” and suggested a two year time frame for its eventual induction.


China’s Reaction

More interesting, however, was China’s reaction, which appeared to lend a little twist to this seemingly straight-forward tale of a nation’s quest for greater global recognition. The Chinese media initially reacted with characteristic intemperateness over the Agni’s launch, shrugging it off as a non-event”. But in a U-turn a day later, Chinese military experts reversed their earlier appreciation and called the Agni­V test as an event of great geo-strategic portent. As they tried hard to play-up the strategic implications of the event, Chinese pundits went to great lengths

Name   Propellant, stages
Agni I  Solid, single stage
700 km with 1,000 km playload
Agni II
Solid, two-stage
2000 km with 1,000 kg payload
Agni III
Solid, two-stage
3,500 km with 1,500 kg payload
Agni IV
Solid, two-stage
3,000 km with 700 kg payload
Agni V
Solid, three-stage
5,000 km
Propellant, stages
Liquid, single stage
2,800 km with two tonne thermonuclear warhead
Liquid, two stages
About 5,000 km with two tonne thermonuclear warhead
Liquid, two stages
Over 10,000 km with two tonne thermonuclear warhead
Solid, two stages
3,000 km with 700 kg nuclear warhead
Solid, three stages
Over 10,000 km with 1,000 kg boosted-fission nuclear warhead
Solid, three stages
Over 7,000 km with 1,800 kg thermonuclear warhead or MIRV payload
Propellant, stages
Solid, single stage
320 km with 1,000 kg nuclear warhead
Liquid, single stage
950 km with 1,000 kg nuclear warhead
Solid, single stage
735 km with 1,000 kg nuclear warhead
Solid, two stages
Over 1,200 km with 1,000 kg nuclear warhead
Based on assessments made by the International Strategic & Security Studies Programme, National Institute of Advanced Studies, Bangalore

to point out that the missile “actually has the potential to reach targets 8,000 km away”. There is to India’s successful long-range nuclear-capable missile Agni-V, they suggested, than what was being admitted by New Delhi.
Strategic Implications

  • Given its strategic situation, In­dia’s missile development, admittedly, constitutes an important element of its national defence preparedness. But the launch of the Agni V, especially the timing of the test—coming right after the North Korean missile launch failure—has put the West in a politi­cal quandary. The US, Britain, France and Australia, which support India’s rise and see it as a potential counter­weight to China, now seem to openly acknowledge that when it comes to strategic missile tests, some countries are equal than the others. This is exactly what appears to have riled Chinese strategists. Needless, to say,the latest Agni launch may not just end up impacting the balance-of-power equation in the subcontinent, but also the broader India-China relationship.
  • Such an outcome may be unfortu­nate. Despite being dubbed as an ‘enig­ma’ by political and strategic experts in both countries, India-China relations have, in recent days, witnessed a turn for the better. The two nations regularly engage in dialogue and have declared. their intention to build a stronger bi­lateral relationship, even undertaking a dialogue on maritime security. However, mistrust persists, even as the enduring legacy of the border dispute continues to hold the relationship hostage. To make matters complicated, each country has seem to have established stronger security relations with the other’s primary potential adversary.
  • While Beijing is worried over India’s emerging relationship with the US, India continues to regard China’s ties with Pakistan with suspicion. Given the history of Beijing’s assistance to Islama­bad in nuclear and missile technology, India’s is an entirely valid apprehension. China’s growing assertiveness in the Indian Ocean has been giving India the strategic ‘heebie-jeebies’ and many Indian experts remain convinced that Beijing’s “strategy of encirclement of India” is no conspiracy-theory. Mean­while, China remains anxious about India’s supposed interference in Tibet and on its increasingly assured asser­tions on the border issue. Sadly, the somewhat ‘partisan’ media on both sides continues to sensationalise issues and stokes passions, much to the chagrin of the politicians (at least in India).
  • China’s reactions to the event, on the other hand, provide evidence that strategic missile capability remains a crucial determinant of strategic equa­tions between powerful nations. Stra­tegic weapons, in a sense, continue to mediate the hierarchy of power and geo-strategic clout among the top global players. India’s rapid economic growth and military’ rise has catapulted it onto the international centre-stage_ But even as New Delhi urges the other occupants of the high table to take a balanced view of the Agni V test, many will interpret it as an act of “strategic messaging”.

India’s first indigenous radar satellite RISAT-1
On 26 April 2012, India successfully launched its remote sensing Radar Im­aging Satellite (RISAT-1). This success, when viewed along with the successful launch of the first long-range ballistic missile Agni 5 just six days back, speaks volumes about India’s technological growth in recent years.
India’s first ingeniously made Radar Imaging Satellite (RISAT-1) was launched by the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV-C19). The success of this launch has also proved the reliability of the Indian Space Research Organi­sation’s (ISRO) PSLV launch vehicle; this was the 20th successful succes­sive launch of this vehicle. The rocket launched the satellite to an altitude of 480 km and within a few days in-flight maneuvers would take the satellite to its final orbital configuration at 536 km altitude. RISAT-1 weighs 1,850 kg and has a designed life of five years. This satellite is the result of a 10year effort by ISRO.


  • A state of the art all-weather Microwave Remote Sensing Satellite carrying a Synthetic Aperture Radar, which enables imaging of the earth’s surface during both day and night
  • The WOW characteristics enable applications in agriculture, partcalarly paddy monitoring in ktiarif season and management of natural disasters
  • flood and cyclone
  • Orbit: Circular Polar Sun Synchronies
  • Orbit altitude 538k’i Orbit period: 95A9 miw
  • Orbits per day 14
  • Normal Miss or life: S yews
  • The Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle, in its 21 flight(PSLV-C19), successfully launched indla’s first Radar Imaging Satellite (RISAT-1) at 5:47am on April 26, 201?
  • lift-oft weight 321 tonnes
  • Height 44.5 metres
  • Stages.Four (solid and liquid prepulsioe alternatively)

On board RISAT-1 with a waiaht of 1,851 ke. the heeviest satellite launched yel by PSLII
RISAT-1’s radar will be able to see through clouds and work in darkness, conditions that hamper optical satellites. Its images will be useful for a variety of applications, from crop forecasting and disaster management to addressing the country’s strategic needs. RISAT-1 will, however, be the country’s second radar imaging satellite. India already operates the Israeli-built RISAT-2, which was launched in April 2009 and appears to have been quickly procured to meet security needs. After the ISRO launched IRS-1A in 1988, it sent up well over a dozen earth-viewing satellites bearing a variety of optical imaging cameras. These satellites have created a large user community within the country. Their data is also being received and utilised in several countries.
An important reason for ISRO’s initial emphasis on optical imaging was the far greater complexity of a radar satellite that builds payloads carried on Indian satel­lites. With RISAT-1, ISRO scientists and engineers demonstrate their mastery of that difficult and closely guarded technology. If the satellite works as its creators hope, it will match and perhaps in some respects even surpass Canada’s second-generation RADARSAT-2 that is now operational.

Three distinguishing features of RISAT-1

  • RISAT-1 uses the ‘synthetic aperture radar’ technique. It carries out com­plex processing of the radar echoes received from the same place on the ground so as to simulate a much bigger antenna than it actually car­ries. Doing so greatly increases the image resolution that is possible. Radar images from the satellite will have a resolution that can be varied from 50 metres down to 3 metres. However, as resolution increases, less of the ground can be imaged as the satellitepasses overhead.
  • In a special “spotlight mode”, where the satellite will keep looking at a small region on the ground, it will be capable of providing one-metre resolution images. (The best resolu­tion now possible on ISRO’s optical remote sensing satellites is believed to be about 0.8 metre.)
  • The satellite is equipped with an advanced “active phased array” antenna. Instead of a single device generating the microwave signals, the antenna has a large number of modules that collectively produce


  • the radar beam. By suitably ad- justing the signals generated by vari- ous modules, the beam can be elec- tronically moved around. Even if a few modules fail, the satellite can continue to function albeit perhaps with some degradation in performance.
  • The continuous suc­cess of technological advancement has been strengthening India’s geostrategic power. Now India is moving to­wards responsible, reliable and trustworthy global power. As per the ISRO vision, they plan to launch its biggest ever spacecraft, the 5,000-kg GSAT-11, by 2014. The advanced communica­tion satellite, GSAT-11, will be double the capac­ity and size of the present buses, and will be built over the next two years. GSAT-11 will have 32 transponders in the Ka and Ku bands. The present capacity of 175 transponders is around half of its requirement.
  • On the other side with the success­ful test launch of the Agni V missile, India has demonstrated that it now has the capability and technology to launch anti-satellite weapons. V.K. Saraswat Scientific Adviser to the Defence Minis­ter acknowledged that “an anti-satellite system requires a good boost capability. Something like 800 km (into space). If you can reach that and have the guiding capabilities it can be done. The Agni V has demonstrated the boost capability.”
  • India’s missile defence system is also ready for induction; the system has already destroyed incoming missiles in four tests. DRDO had used modified Prithvi missiles as simulated targets and demonstrated the capability of hitting missiles with the range of over 2,000 km. The Indian system is at par with the US Patriot 3 missile defence system. The LCA (Light Combat Aircraft) will be inducted into the Indian Air Force, by end of 2012, he said to big applause. A total of 1,855 hours of flying has been completed by the LCA. The naval ver­ sion will be force multiplier and add strength to the country’s defences.
  • These events have clearly demon­strated the maturing of technological and industrial capabilities in these areas. The success in the maiden flight trial of Agni-V and the enviable record of perfect launches (nearly 20 in a row), by the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle, are befitting examples of the expertise.
  • Agni-V- has given the country the maximum strategic deterrence required at present. The RISAT-1, dramatically improves the imaging of the country’s resources, both during day and night. The ability to design, build and utilise radar satellites therefore represents a quantum jump in its remote sens­ing capabilities both for civilian and security-related applications. More radar satellites will doubtless follow RISAT-1.
  • So, the question originally asked is itself getting answered after all these discussions. Yes! India as a nation is tak­ing its next step in evolving into a global rather than regional power. With dragon brewing with its already established status of super power across the Himalayas, we as nation have to make advancement in this direction so as to maintain the gee.,
  • political “neutrality”.   •


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