Indian Agni missiles deployed in tunnels on Chinese border

India has built atleast 2 tunnels in mountains for storage of Agni Intermediate Range Ballastic Missile (IRBM). It was revealed by Mr. Bharat Karnad, who released his book “India’s Nuclear Policy” in Mumbai yesterday. He said that India is building more such facilities. Such tunnels will help India’s second strike capability, as; the Chinese Thermo Nuclear weapons cannot vaporize mountains.

Mr. Karnad explaind that it has been done to offset the deployments of Chinese IRBM”s in Chinese occupied Tibet. Mr. Karnad also outlined some scenarios when India and China might actually fight a war and the nuclear weapons might be used. One of the foremost reasons could be the Chinese plans to build a dam and divert water from Yarlung Zangbo (Brahmaputra) to the Yellow river. He said that China has already proceeded by the civil works. In a second scenario, he said, the new generation Tibetians who are very motivated, would launch an armed struggle against Chinese Imperialist. Another important fact he said was that India and China are already engaged in a battle to secure natural resources, even as far as Ecuador.

Bharat Karnad said that the weakest point of the Nuclear Chain of command was the will of the government to launch retaliatory strike. He said this was told to him by a retired Indian Army General. While Bharat karnad was unsure of current governments will, he and other speakers were unanimous that eventually the decision will come.

I have difference of opinion with some of the points made by Mr. Karnad. He mentions that the MiG-23 was purchased by IAF when they were given choice of purchasing TU-22M. MiG-23 was purchased was a knee jerk reaction to purchase of F-16’s by Pakistan Air Force. But the general observation of the lack of foresight by the Indian Air Force to build up capabilities against Chinese is agreeable. He also mentioned that India had put the ICBM development in back burner because of lack of resources. My point of view is different. I assume that India is actually building ICBM capabilities in the DRDO’s Advanced Systems laboratory (ASL). ASL does not seem to have a publicly defined mandate. Mr. Karnad says that India is leasing Akulas and it will improve the second strike capability. I just wonder which Indian missile can be fired from it. Mr. Karnad also revealed that India is negotiating for purchase of TU-160 Black Jacks from Russia. He could be right; Russian Air Force did display Tu-160s with their capability to get their job done over Indian Ocean during Indo-Russian Naval Exercises (INDRA).

I would also like to add some vital comments by some good speakers present at the book launch. Dr. P.K. Iyengar, former Chairman, Atomic Energy Commission made a point that, the Indian nuclear program was about weaponisation right from the start. He observed that, Nasser, Nehru and Tito, the three founders of Non- Alignment Movement (NAM) had agreed that if NAM has to be heard, it needs nuclear weapons. While Apsara reactor was established to get hands on Graphite machining and Cirrus was for extracting Plutonium. Dr. Iyengar was not at his verbal best on his opposition to India-US civil nuclear deal. Dr. Iyengar also recounted an incident that where he had asked the Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi for nuclear test. But Rajiv Gandhi responded by saying that he is putting a note to UN general assembly for disarmament.

Vice Admiral Madanjit Singh (Retd.) outlined the structure of the Indian nuclear command. He said that there was a National Commission (or Committee, I didn’t get that right). Then Executive Committee. These both are manned by civilians. Then the decision goes to another civil (DRDO and AEC) and military group who would translate the decisions into reality. Vice Admiral Madanjit also outlined the prospects of the Indian Nuclear submarine (ATV) building costs, costs of operation that includes the decision where would the ATV be berthed after it comes back from sea.

Ambassador Prakash Shah, IFS (Retd.) revealed that India signed Chemical Weapons ban (CWC) with the pre-condition that infamous Australia Group will be dissolved in future.

Dr. A.N. Prasad, former Director, BARC turned out to be the terrific speaker. He managed to come out with some pointed inferences, while I was wondering what he would speak since everybody else has spoken everything. He said that Thorium is the third stage but what about natural Uranium right now? He said that Dr. Homi Jehangir Bhabha had the vision to start extracting uranium right in 1960 with the uranium in Indian ore of just .07% (700 grams per ton). Those days, the world was operating 2-3% uranium content mines. Then he said that India lost focus and is now realizing the mistake of not continuing to build up on new mines and processing facility. He said that if the Indians would have concentrated on various ways of extracting uranium, we could have found alternative source like the Japanese have found a method of extracting uranium from sea water. One major point he brought out was that when the decision to build the nuclear submarine in 1970’s, the choice of the fuel was enriched uranium and not plutonium. India did not posses the facilities to enrich uranium but subsequently built it up.

November 18, 2008
by P. Chacko Joseph
rontier India Strategic and Defence

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