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Indian Pursuit Of Ballistic Missile Defence Program – Analysis


Recently India conducted a successful ballistic missile defence test which was capable enough to intercept and kill the incoming missile. This shows that Indian ballistic missile defence program comprising of long range tracking radar, command and control system and the interceptor, is maturing at a faster pace. As a result, the South Asian strategic stability would be challenged as there are diversification of threats and limited response options, BMD adds value to the complexity of the region.

India believes in nuclear dominance in the region and aspires to have extended self defence. It aims to become a global power. The technological edge that it is struggling to acquire over Pakistan and China has been to some extent proven by the successful ballistic missile defence test it conducted on 6th March 2011. Till now India has conducted six tests out of which four were successful and two failed due to technological reasons. But now India would proudly be a part of the elite club of the ‘BMD haves’ which includes United States, Russia and Israel.

India acquired the system with the technological assistance of United States and Israel. Indian BMD program has a two-tiered system namely Prithvi Air Defence (PAD) for high altitude interception and Advanced Air Defence (AAD) for lower altitude interception. The PAD missiles are for intercepting ballistic missiles at altitudes between 50-80 km and the Advanced Air Defence (AAD) missile is for destroying them at heights ranging 15-30 km.


India’s future plans include two new anti ballistic missiles that can intercept Inter Continental Ballistic Missiles (ICBM) namely Advanced Defence (AD-1 and AD-2) which would be capable of intercepting and destroying a missile at a range around 5,000 km (3,100 mi)

India justifies its acquisition of BMD by stating that as India has a no first use policy (NFU) therefore in order to ensure its second strike capability and to be able to absorb the first strike and retaliate it needs BMD. This would add value to its deterrent capability. Indian BMD is theatre missile defence it cannot protect the entire Indian soil but can only give protection to its some land-based strategic locations. It has Nuclear submarines INS Arihant which would be inducted in Indian Navy by 2012 will protect its seas.

Another dimension that adds fuel to the fire is the Indian plan to accommodate the Anti-Satellite (ASAT) as apart of its BMD program. India believes that its high-altitude interceptors can indeed serve as Anti–Satellite weapons (ASAT) which would be capable of destroying low orbit satellites. India perceives that its space assets are not secure and are threatened from China, as China possesses Anti-Satellite weapons therefore it has all the right to acquire ASAT which will ultimately enhance its security in space. Moreover before a legally binding framework comes into being which would prohibit the acquisition of Anti-Satellite weapons India wants to be the part of the club of ‘ASAT haves’ rather than ‘have-nots’.

DRDO Director General V.K. Saraswat announced during 97th Indian Science Congress “India was developing lasers and an exo-atmospheric kill vehicle that could be combined to produce a weapon to destroy enemy satellites in orbit, kill vehicle, which is needed for intercepting the satellite, needs to be developed, and that work is going on as part of the ballistic missile defense program by 2014.”

India is on the road to acquire laser-based anti-ballistic missile systems called Directed Energy Weapons (DEWs). DEW weapons can kill incoming ballistic missiles by bombarding them with subatomic particles or electromagnetic waves. The weapons are capable of intercepting missiles soon after they are launched towards India. According to DRDO scientist the DEW laser weapon is capable of producing 25-kilowatt pulses that can destroy a ballistic missile within seven kilometers. One of these weapons is the air defense dazzler, which can engage enemy aircraft and helicopters at a range of 10 kilometers.

The Indian pursuit of BMD and its goal to accommodate ASAT will have regional implications. It not only provokes Pakistan but also China to take requisite steps in order to have counter measures to overcome Indian BMD. As a result of which China conducted successful BMD test in 2010 and is on the road to acquire effective BMD program in near future.

Whereas, Pakistan’s economy does not support it to acquire BMD program. Pakistan would feel insecure as its counter measure strike capability is not sufficient and secondly it does not possess any assured second strike capability. That is the reason that it sticks to First Use policy to equalize the deterrent equation. It would ultimately engage in acquiring additional missiles and launchers to devise a much larger attacking force which would elude the Indian interceptors, leading to triangular security dilemma in the region.

Moreover Pakistan would improve the nuclear arsenals qualitatively and quantitatively as it considers the nuclear weapons an integral part of its defence system which would result in nuclear instability.

This rapid technological inflow, aim to have a comprehensive space program and western discriminatory approaches to make India a ‘Shining India’ is very threatening for Pakistan and China also up to an extent. India has been accommodated into the four export control regimes namely Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), Australia Group (AG), Wassanar Arrangment (WA) and Nuclear Supplier Group (NSG) would further make India technology enabler and legitimizing India’s status.

Indian defence and space companies DRDO and ISRO respectively have been removed from entity list which would provide India hi-tech and nuclear technology access. India will further pursue its space program and struggle to get the technological edge over Pakistan and China.

This shows that India would be able to pursue its ballistic missile defence program and is planning to deploy it in near future and If India does so it will assure its second strike capability. Although BMD is defensive technology, highly expensive and technologically uncertain but its possession fortifies a state to adopt offensive policies. India has moved from deterrence to pre-emption compelling states to further improve their response option which destabilizes the strategic equation of the entire region.

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Rida Zeenat

Rida Zeenat is working as a Research Fellow at the South Asian Strategic Stability Institute (SASSI). She holds M.Sc. degree in Defence and Diplomatic Studies from Fatima Jinnah Women University, Pakistan. Her M.Sc. dissertation was based on “Pakistan’s Nuclear Doctrine of Credible Minimum Deterrence”. She has also participated at various current affairs television programs.

8 thoughts on “Indian Pursuit Of Ballistic Missile Defence Program – Analysis

  • March 31, 2011 at 1:40 pm

    India needs to protect itself from all it’s hostile nations.
    As more modern technology flows into India.
    India will make ‘ quantum ‘ leaps in missile/space/Asat technology.
    It is foolish of Pakistan and China to continue to quantitatively amass nuclear weapons.
    As one noted US analyst noted…
    Once India has it’s ‘thorium fast breeder’ reactors up and running [ assuming India has not already done so ]
    India will produce enough ‘fissile material’ to produce and endless supply of nuclear weapons.
    It would be best to ‘ befriend ‘ India rather than to compete with her..

  • April 1, 2011 at 2:51 am

    Ms. Rida Zeenat,

    I would like you to answer this simple question:

    Since when has acquiring a missile shield become a “challenge to South Asian strategic stability”?

    If an opponent has a sword, is keeping a shield an offensive measure to hurt others OR is it a measure to protect oneself?

    It is like a school bully saying that the kid who was being threatened every day is now walking into school with an armor. This is destabilizing the bully’s plans of striking a few blows now and then. Just because the Kid is big and strong does not make it invulnerable to surprise death blows if planned as a part of a surprise attack. Just because the bully is small, it does not make the bully vulnerable because the kid’s intentions are good.

    To take this analogy further, you justify in equivalent terms that the bully should have some more weapons now to pierce the armor the kid wears to class or prepare to attack the armor from multiple places to get around it.

    In that context, your article makes sense and I see your viewpoint – it reduces the impact of blackmail of Pakistan’s stated First Use policy. It feels thwarted and out-witted. So it will in the short term deride the armor wearing kid in school, and start finding ways to get past that armor.

    Ever thought what the bully has done in 1948, 1965, 1971, 1999 in Kargil – it has always engaged in First Use or First Attack in the hope that it will succeed in the conventional theater. It threatens to raise the stakes in a flawed nuclear equipped logic.

    The big kid has only raised its hands in self defense. You need to realize that some big kids can be gentle and caring. The small bully needs to grow up and mature. It needs to pause and look at its own actions and implications. It needs to look inwards and not point fingers and guns and nuclear tipped missiles) at a gentle giant.

    Think. Think Again. And again. Let the bully look inside and examine its own insecurities and short comings. In the meantime, let the gentle giant continue its development – it needs to get out of school and contribute to the world at large.

  • Pingback: technological edge over Pakistan and China has been to some extent proven

  • April 19, 2011 at 10:50 am

    I think Pakistan manufacturing and exporting “terrorists” & “jihad” are the real threat to peace and stability of all its neighbors. Stop writing stupid articles and get your house in order please !!

  • September 27, 2011 at 4:23 pm

    I think the article has very amply covered salient aspects of Indian BMD programme and possible Pakistani response. But there is another aspect which, I think, the writer must consider to study. Immediate Pak response is (1) to acquire more missiles to dilute the defence system response and (2) stick to first use policy. Here is the catch. A nuclear deterrance is no more a deterrance once the button is pressed.In this context both the above mentioned counter measures do not remain viable. It gives Indians more leverage to launch conventional cum nuclear war once the ‘over hang’ no more exists. Then, instead of securing complete India, protection of key places / cities again poses a dilema for Pak. India may not be having the capability to install BMD, at the moment. Nonetheless, in near future it will be a reality; specially once seen in the backdrop of their close ties with USA.
    I think the writer needs to focus more on response options. These options must consider both, direct and indirect methods to meet the challenge.

  • November 16, 2011 at 5:04 pm

    very well pointed out by muhammad shah
    i will thank him for it.
    this will always be the dilemma with policy of bluff rather than substance
    i know for sure that this will create quite an unrest in the pakistani military centric regime and they will come up with some actions though may be not credible. we will have to wait and see

  • November 27, 2011 at 6:52 pm

    This article by Ms. Rida Zeenet shows the growing fear and helplessness of Pakistan at large over India’s BMD program. She even targets India’s ASAT program though Pakistan doesn’t have any known and credible space based capability. Pakistan has been for long using their ‘first use policy’ as a deterrent against India’s massive conventional superiority in order to protect itself after indulging in state sponsored terrorism. India’s inability to strike back on the event of the parliament attack and the 26/11 mumbai attacks is the eye opener on how badly India needs a effective BMD system deployed in order to blunt out the Nuclear threat and state sponsored terrorist activities of its neighbour.
    A operationalised and effective BMD system for India would mean a lot as it would restrict Pakistani state sponsored acts of terror against India in view of India’s conventional retaliation. In case of such a scenario, even if Pakistan decides to lauch nukes at its neighbour, it would be thwarted by the two layered BMD system and in accordance with India’s massive retaliation policies, India will retaliate. Which in turn will send most of Pakistan back into the dark ages, economy will cripple, civil administration and the government will crumble and in order to stop Islamic terror elements within Pakistan getting hold of its nukes, the US and the Nato in guise of a International coalition will drop in troops which will secure Pakistan’s NBC arsenal and establish a UN administered buffer state. Thus will end a mistake which should never have been made in the first place – the creation of the state of Pakistan.

  • April 27, 2012 at 6:30 am

    Very well articulated article Rida. one point I want to clarify is that what do you mean by triangualr security dilemma?


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