The Arms Control Association is an "exceptional organization that effectively addresses pressing national and international challenges with an impact that is disproportionate to its small size." 

– John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation
January 19, 2011

Apocalypse Averted: Lessons From the Man Who Saved the World

Last Monday – October 27 – marked the fifty-second anniversary of a day when the world came staggeringly close to nuclear war. Despite the many decades that have transpired since that fateful date, the story of that day remains a worthy one to re-tell, for all the things that went wrong, the one thing that went right, and for the enduring implications it has for the command and control of nuclear weapons on submarines in today’s world. On that day in 1962, deep in the Cuban Missile Crisis , a U.S. destroyer began dropping depth charges on a Soviet nuclear-armed submarine with the intention of...

Australia, India Sign Uranium Deal

By Kelsey Davenport

Australia and India signed a civilian nuclear cooperation agreement in New Delhi last month that will allow India to purchase uranium from Australia.

Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced the deal Sept. 5 during Abbott’s visit to India. Modi hailed the agreement as a “historical milestone” in the relationship between the two countries. 

A description of the agreement released by Modi’s office said the agreement will “promote cooperation in the field of peaceful uses of nuclear energy” and that Australia will provide “long-term reliable supplies of uranium” to India. The text of the agreement has not been released.

Abbott said India has an “impeccable” nonproliferation record and that Australia had received commitments from New Delhi that the uranium supplied to India would be used for civilian purposes and not the development of nuclear weapons. 

Australia and India began negotiations on the agreement more than two years ago, after Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard proposed lifting the country’s ban on uranium sales to India in 2011. Australia’s Labor Party voted in favor of the proposal in December 2011. (See ACT, January/February 2012.) 

Australia, one of the world’s largest producers of uranium ore, is a party to the Treaty of Rarotonga, which established a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the South Pacific. Under the treaty, parties are obligated to ensure that nuclear technology and materials are exported only to countries “subject to the safeguards required by Article III.1” of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT).

India is not a party to the NPT, but negotiated a limited safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in 2008. This means that the IAEA has access to some but not all of India’s nuclear facilities. 

India’s safeguards agreement helped pave the way for an exemption from the rules of the Nuclear Suppliers Group in 2008 to allow the group’s member states, including Australia, to export uranium and other nuclear goods to India. The rules of the voluntary regime generally prohibit nuclear exports to countries that are outside the NPT. 

In July of this year, India ratified an additional protocol to its safeguards agreement, which Australia said was a precondition for any agreement. 

The additional protocol, which India negotiated with the IAEA in 2009, is a voluntary measure that does not include many of the key provisions included in the IAEA Model Additional Protocol. It does not give the IAEA the authority to inspect undeclared facilities or require India to report on all of its nuclear fuel-cycle research and development. (See ACT, April 2009.) Australia’s Liberal Party opposed lifting the ban on sales to India in 2011 in part because India’s additional protocol does not meet the standards of full-scope safeguards required under the Treaty of Rarotonga.

In addition to mining its own uranium ore, India imports natural uranium from Russia, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, and Namibia. 

India also is negotiating a nuclear cooperation with Japan. While visiting Japan last month, Modi said on Sept. 1 that he and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe instructed negotiators to “work expeditiously to conclude” a civilian nuclear cooperation agreement. Modi said the negotiators had made “significant progress” over the past few months. 

India and Japan began negotiating the agreement in 2010. The talks were interrupted by the accident at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in March 2011, but resumed in May 2013. 

As part of any agreement, Japan has said it wants India to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and pledge not to reprocess spent nuclear fuel produced using technology or materials obtained from Tokyo. Reprocessing produces plutonium, which can be used in nuclear weapons.

India will be able to purchase uranium from Australia under a civilian nuclear cooperation agreement that the two countries signed last month.

India Tests Ballistic Missile for Subs

Kelsey Davenport

India successfully tested a new, longer-range submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) on March 24, Indian news outlets reported last month.

The test of the missile, known as the K-4, took place off the southeastern coast in the Bay of Bengal using a submerged pontoon. The two-stage, nuclear-capable missile traveled approximately 3,000 kilometers, the news accounts said.

India did not immediately publicize the missile test. But The Hindu on May 8 quoted officials who were present at the test as calling it “excellent” and saying that they would conduct “many more missions” like it to increase the reliability of the missile.

The K-4 eventually is to be deployed on Indian submarines, the first of which is currently undergoing testing.

Avinash Chander, director-general of India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), said May 13 that India would be conducting a test launch of the K-4 from the INS Arihant “within the next few months.”

The DRDO is the main Indian government entity responsible for developing new, advanced military technologies.

India announced the successful development of a shorter-range SLBM, the K-15, in July 2012 and indicated at that time that the longer-range K-4 was under development. (See ACT, September 2012.)

According to the DRDO, the K-15 has a maximum range of 700 kilometers for a 700-kilogram payload.

Only four other countries—China, France, Russia, and the United States—have the capability to produce SLBMs. Although the United Kingdom deploys such missiles, they are produced in the United States.

India is planning to develop four nuclear submarines in total, and the boats are designed to carry four K-4 missiles or 12 K-15 missiles. New Delhi is planning to deploy the submarines by 2023.

India successfully tested a new, longer-range submarinelaunched ballistic missile (SLBM) on March 24, Indian news outlets reported last month.

India Striving to Enhance Nuclear Forces

Ian Williams

India is pushing to improve its nuclear counterstrike capabilities with a plan to finish development of its Agni-5 ballistic missile by 2015, according to Avinash Chander, India’s new head of defense research.

Chander, director-general of India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), told India’s Headlines Today on July 2 that he will reduce the time required to launch a retaliatory nuclear strike to “within minutes” by making the country’s ballistic missile forces “much more agile, fast reacting, and stable.” The DRDO is the main Indian government entity responsible for developing new, advanced military technologies.

Response time is the most critical factor for an effective nuclear second-strike capability, said Chander, who was appointed to his post in May. He previously served as the chief controller of the Agni ballistic missile program and is considered one of the main architects of the Agni-5.

The DRDO is preparing to conduct two more tests of the nuclear-capable Agni-5 this year, Chander said in a June 29 interview with The Times of India. The three-stage Agni-5 is solid fueled and can carry a 1,500-kilogram payload a distance of 5,000 kilometers, according to news reports. The Agni-5’s first and only test-flight, which took place in April 2012, was considered a success. (See ACT, May 2012.)

A range of 5,500 kilometers is generally considered the threshold between intermediate range and intercontinental ballistic missiles. A missile’s range can be extended by lightening its payload.

When asked in the June 29 interview about the feasibility of finishing the development of the Agni-5 within two years, Chander said that there is no longer a need to conduct a large number of trials because the DRDO now conducts “thousands” of flight tests through computer modeling and simulations. The actual flight tests, Chander said, “are just to validate what’s predicted in the simulations.”

Agni-5 Timeline Questioned

Tessy Thomas, the current head of the Agni-5 development program, echoed Chander’s comments at an engineering conference Aug. 2, saying that, after two or three more successful test-flights, the Agni-5 will be “ready for operational service by 2015.”

Deployment of the Agni-5 would give India the ability to strike targets almost anywhere in Chinese territory. India has an explicit no-first-use nuclear weapons policy, but will “respond with punitive retaliation” to a nuclear attack on Indian territory, according to its draft nuclear doctrine released in 1999. India’s two main strategic rivals, China and Pakistan, each have deployed ballistic missiles capable of reaching Indian territory.

Some analysts question whether the DRDO can finish development of the Agni-5 by 2015. Hans Kristensen, director of the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists, said in an Aug. 2 e-mail to Arms Control Today that he thinks two years is “too optimistic,” citing the technical problems that “can and tend to pop up on the road to full operational status.” Kristensen pointed out that even after its first successful test launch in 1999, the Agni-2 ballistic missile underwent 14 more years of testing before it finally was classified as “deployed” by U.S. intelligence earlier this year.

The DRDO “has often overpromised and underperformed” on past projects, said Michael Krepon, director of the Stimson Center’s South Asia program, in a July 16 e-mail to Arms Control Today.

Monika Chansoria, senior fellow at the Centre for Land Warfare Studies in New Delhi, said in an Aug. 21 e-mail to Arms Control Today that although she believes there will be an “operational version” of the Agni-5 in service by 2015, the missile will not be deployed in significant numbers until the end of that decade.

Chander said in the June 29 interview that India is developing more-flexible and more-resilient launch platforms for its ballistic missiles. One of the DRDO’s planned test flights for this year will involve firing the Agni-5 from a road-mobile launch truck, according to Chander. Road-mobile launchers are more agile and easily concealed than fixed-site or rail-mobile launch platforms, making them less vulnerable to a pre-emptive strike. Currently, India’s only deployed, solid-fueled, road-mobile ballistic missile is the single-stage Agni-1, with a range of 700 kilometers, according to a recent report from the U.S. National Air and Space Intelligence Center (NASIC).

India successfully test-fired an Agni-2 ballistic missile from a road-mobile platform on Wheeler Island, according to an April 7 DRDO press release. However, the NASIC report said the solid-fueled Agni-2, which can carry a 1,000-kilogram payload a distance of 2,000 kilometers, is currently deployed only in rail-mobile mode.

In view of Asia’s “changing security environment,” it is “imperative that India makes advances in weapons and technology,” Rajeswari Rajagopalan, senior fellow at the Observer Research Foundation in New Delhi, said in an Aug. 22 e-mail to Arms Control Today. Rajagopalan specifically cited Chinese ballistic missiles deployed near Tibet as a key motive for India’s ballistic missile ambitions.

Advancing SLBM Capability

India also has been progressing toward a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) capability. (See ACT, September 2012.) In January, India conducted its third successful test-firing of the nuclear capable K-15 SLBM from an underwater pontoon, according to a DRDO press release. Sometimes referred to as Sagarika or B05, the missile has a maximum range of 700 kilometers and can carry up to a 700-kilogram payload, according to a 2012 article in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. China, France, Russia, and the United States are the only other countries currently capable of producing SLBMs.

The K-15 is expected to be the main armament of the nuclear-powered INS Arihant, India’s first ballistic missile submarine. (See ACT, September 2009.) In development since the late 1980s, the Arihant’s nuclear propulsion reactor “achieved criticality” sometime in early August, according to an Aug. 10 press release from Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s office. The indigenously produced Arihant is now expected to undergo sea trials starting this year. In his statement, Singh described the success of the reactor as a “great stride” in India’s technological progress and said he looks forward to the submarine’s “early commissioning.”

India is pushing to improve its nuclear counterstrike capabilities with a plan to finish development of its Agni-5 ballistic missile by 2015, according to Avinash Chander, India’s new head of defense research.

NSG Revises List, Continues India Debate

Daniel Horner

The Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) has completed a revision of its list of controlled exports, the group announced in Prague on June 14 at the end of its annual plenary meeting.

At the meeting, representatives of the 48 member states continued to wrestle with the question of whether to admit India as a member, according to people familiar with the discussions. President Barack Obama proposed that step during a visit to India in November 2010. (See ACT, December 2010.)

The revision of the list, which covers nuclear-specific and dual-use goods, took three years to complete, the June 14 statement said.

The lists “are not static” and must keep up with “the main security challenges, advances in technology, [and] market trends,” said Veronika Kuchyňová Šmigolová, head of the Czech permanent mission to international organizations in Vienna and the chair of the NSG for the coming year, in a June 25 e-mail to Arms Control Today. After last year’s meeting in Seattle, U.S. Deputy Energy Secretary Daniel Poneman, the 2012-2013 NSG chairman, said completing the review was his highest priority. (See ACT, July/August 2012.)

The country that chairs the NSG starts its term by hosting the plenary meeting. The group is not a formal organization, and its guidelines are not binding, but members are expected to incorporate the guidelines into their national export control laws.

The June 14 statement said that the meeting participants discussed the role of the private sector in preventing proliferation and how NSG members could interact with companies that export nuclear goods.

In her e-mail, Kuchyňová highlighted the importance of companies’ internal compliance programs to ensure that the firms “do not inadvertently violate national laws and thereby subject themselves to sanctions and reputational damage.” Interaction with the private sector is “an important focus of our outreach,” she said.

Another target of her outreach efforts will be “non-NSG supplier states, including India, Pakistan and Israel,” she said. Those three countries never have joined the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) and maintain unsafeguarded nuclear programs.

In September 2008, in a move led by the United States, the NSG eased long-standing restrictions on nuclear trade with India by the group’s members. NSG rules generally forbid the sale of nuclear goods, such as reactors and fuel, to non-NPT countries.

With those restrictions lifted, Indian membership in the NSG is the “next logical step,” Ashley Tellis, a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said in a June 21 interview. While in the U.S. government, Tellis was a principal architect of the U.S. policy shift toward India that led to the 2008 NSG decision and a similar change in U.S. law.

Like the 2008 decision, the idea of admitting India is controversial within the NSG, which makes its decisions by consensus. The issue of Indian membership “raises some very difficult questions and needs to be discussed further,” a western European diplomat said in a June 26 interview. Tellis and the diplomat each listed France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States among the strong supporters of Indian membership and China as a leading opponent.

A key criterion for NSG membership is that a country is a party to and complying with the NPT or a nuclear-weapon-free-zone treaty. India would be the first country that did not meet that criterion.

A British discussion paper on Indian membership argues that the NSG process for accepting new members “offer[s] the flexibility” to allow India to join. In the paper, which was obtained by Arms Control Today, the United Kingdom said it “believes that the NSG is best served by the inclusion and membership of India” because New Delhi has “an important civil nuclear industry” and “continues to uphold the international non-proliferation architecture.”

Tellis said that, with the 2008 decision, “the debate about principle is over.” The countries that were uneasy about admitting a non-NPT state with a nuclear weapons program “conceded” on the principle at that time, he said. “At the end of the day, they’ll make the same judgment they did in 2008,” he predicted.

The western European diplomat said his country is approaching the issue “with an open mind” but wants “a serious discussion” that “com[es] to grips with the implications” of the decision, for example, what it would mean for the implementation of NSG guidelines.

He said it might be possible to find a formulation that is not “damaging” to the NPT regime but “brings India closer.” India could “take a couple of steps toward the NPT community,” he said. One example would be signing the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, an “extremely high-value symbolic step” that would have little immediate practical effect on India, in part because the treaty has not entered into force and will not do so until India and seven other key countries have ratified it, he said. Also, he said, there already are other legal and political constraints on India’s ability to conduct a nuclear test.

The June 14 statement did not provide any information on the India discussions, repeating the language used in 2011 and last year. Kuchyňová also declined to provide details.

The Nuclear Suppliers Group completed a revision of its list of controlled exports and continued its internal debate on admitting India as a member.

Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty at 45

President Lyndon Johnson looking on as Secretary of State Dean Rusk prepares to sign the NPT, 1 July 1968.(Source: Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library.) By Daryl G. Kimball Forty-five years ago today, the United States, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, and dozens of other countries signed the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) at ceremonies in Washington, Moscow, and London. In his remarks at the July 1, 1968 signing ceremony , U.S. President Lyndon Johnson called it "... a very reassuring and hopeful moment in the relations among nations. We hope and expect that virtually all the...

Indian Missile Defense Program Advances

Eric Auner

India is pressing ahead with its work on missile defense, conducting its latest successful test last November and preparing to test a new kind of interceptor early this year.

In its Nov. 23 announcement of the test earlier that day, India said it had demonstrated the ability to intercept multiple incoming missiles. The test, which was the latest in a series dating to 2006, follows several tests in 2012 of nuclear-capable ballistic missiles, including the successful launch in April of the 5,000-kilometer-range Agni-5. (See ACT, May 2012.)

India also has tested the sea-launched version of the hypersonic Brahmos cruise missile, jointly developed with Russia. In addition, air- and submarine-launched versions of the Brahmos missile are in development.

Indian media reports suggest that a test of a new high-altitude anti-missile interceptor will occur in January and that India may soon test a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) for the first time, bringing the country closer to possessing a triad of nuclear weapons delivery systems. (See ACT, September 2012.)

India’s nuclear-armed neighbors, China and Pakistan, have significant cruise and ballistic missile capabilities. China has taken steps to acquire missile defense capabilities although Pakistan apparently has not attempted to do so. In the past, Pakistan has justified its pursuit of cruise missiles by citing their supposed invulnerability to Indian ballistic missile defenses. China possesses SLBMs, and China and Pakistan are able to deliver nuclear weapons by airplane.

The Chinese and Pakistani reaction to Indian missile defense developments is not yet clear, said Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan, a senior fellow at the New Delhi-based Observer Research Foundation. “The new capabilities and counter-capabilities add to the already vexed issue of arms race[s] in Asia,” Rajagopalan, a former assistant director of India’s National Security Council Secretariat, said in a Dec. 19 e-mail to Arms Control Today.

In a Dec. 19 analysis for the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, where he is a senior fellow, Vivek Kapur, a group captain in the Indian air force, said that “ballistic missile proliferation in India’s neighbourhood requires the development of a more capable” missile defense system.

In the Nov. 23 press release, the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), the Indian government entity responsible for developing offensive and defensive missile and other systems, said the Advanced Air Defence (AAD) interceptor destroyed a target missile, a modified Prithvi ballistic missile, at an altitude of 15 kilometers.

The interceptor and target missile were launched from sites in Orissa, a state in the eastern part of the country. In the press release, the DRDO said it had demonstrated an ability to track and destroy multiple incoming ballistic missiles.

Rajagopalan said India’s efforts are “primarily driven by the threat of short-range missiles in Pakistan”; Chinese missile threats “did not figure prominently in the Indian calculation for a missile defence shield,” she said.

The Pakistani government has not issued an official reaction to the AAD interceptor test. Pakistan, however, successfully tested a nuclear-capable Hatf-5, a 1,300-kilometer-range ballistic missile, on Nov. 28. A Pakistani statement following the test of the Hatf-5, also known as the Ghauri, did not mention India specifically, but said the test “strengthens and consolidates Pakistan’s deterrence capability.” According to the DRDO, the Nov. 23 AAD test demonstrated a capability to intercept ballistic missiles with a range of 1,500 kilometers.

Two-Tiered Defense

India is pursuing a two-tiered missile defense shield, which would give it multiple opportunities to intercept incoming missiles. The AAD interceptor comprises the lower tier, and the higher-altitude, two-stage Prithvi Air Defence (PAD) interceptor currently comprises the upper tier. Like the U.S. Patriot system, both of these Indian systems intercept ballistic missiles in the so-called terminal phase, in which the incoming missiles are descending toward their target.

India first tested the AAD interceptor in December 2007 and, according to the Indian government, has conducted several subsequent tests. India first tested the higher-altitude Prithvi interceptor in November 2006 and again in March 2009. The test reportedly planned for January is of the Prithvi Defence Vehicle, which would be capable of interceptions at a much higher altitude than the PAD interceptor, and may eventually replace that interceptor as the upper tier of the Indian system.

The Indian government has not announced the area that the missile defense system is designed to protect. Media reports have indicated that New Delhi and Mumbai will be the first sites, with the system expanded to protect additional cities later in the decade.

According to the DRDO press release, the AAD interceptor used an explosive warhead to destroy the target missile as the interceptor approached it. In contrast, most U.S. missile defense systems, including the Ground-Based Midcourse Defense and sea-based Aegis systems, rely on “hit-to-kill” interceptors that destroy a target solely through impact.

Eyeing Iron Dome

In addition to developing an anti-ballistic missile capability, India has expressed an interest in purchasing and perhaps producing a domestic variant of the Israeli Iron Dome anti-rocket system, according to the U.S.-based Defense News. The Israel Defense Forces claim Iron Dome successfully intercepted 84 percent of rockets fired at Israeli population centers last November during Operation Pillar of Defense, which was intended to halt rocket attacks from groups in Gaza.

In the past, India has expressed interest in purchasing the Israeli Arrow-2 ballistic missile defense system. New Delhi bought two Israeli Green Pine missile defense radars, used for tracking incoming ballistic missiles, in 2002 and 2005. The Swordfish Long Range Tracking Radar, which was used in the AAD test, is based in part on the Green Pine radar.

India and the United States pursued missile defense cooperation during the administration of U.S. President George W. Bush, but such efforts have been less prominent under the Obama administration. Last July, U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter said India and the United States intend to discuss missile defense cooperation, calling it “an important future area for our cooperation.” India and the United States should discuss the issue “strategically before they discuss it technically,” he said.

India's defensive missile program continues to move forward with a successful launch at the end of last year and a test of a new interceptor planned for early this year.

India Moves Closer to Nuclear Triad

Kelsey Davenport

India announced the successful development of a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) in July, bringing the country one step closer to completing the strategic nuclear triad, which also includes the ability to deliver warheads via land-based missiles and bombers.

On July 31, at a yearly awards ceremony for the defense sector, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh presented an award to A.K. Chakrabarti of India’s Defence Research and Development Laboratory for the “successful development” of India’s first SLBM system. India has been working on producing its first SLBM, the K-15, for a number of years, conducting the first undersea trial of the weapon in February 2008, although tests of components probably began much earlier. (See ACT, April 2008.)

The K-15 has a range of at least 290 kilometers and can carry a 1,000-kilogram payload, according to a 2009 report by the U.S. Air Force’s National Air and Space Intelligence Center. Media accounts from the 2008 test place the range closer to 750 kilometers.

Only four other countries—China, France, Russia, and the United States—have the capability to produce SLBMs. Although the United Kingdom deploys such missiles, they are produced in the United States.

The K-15 is likely to require further testing before becoming fully operational, according to Indian defense officials. The missile has been tested from submerged vessels, but not from the nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines that India is developing as a delivery platform for its sea-based deterrent. The ballistic missile submarines have been subject to numerous delays, but according to a May 8 statement by Defense Minister A.K. Antony, the first in the fleet of at least three submarines should go into service by mid-2013.

A week after the K-15 announcement, in an Aug. 7 speech marking his retirement, Adm. Nirmal Verma, India’s chief of naval staff, said that the Indian navy is “poised to complete the triad” and that the first submarine platform for the K-15, the INS Arihant, will “commence sea trials in the coming months.”

Click image to enlarge

In a June 25 speech, Verma had said a sea-based deterrent that is “credible and invulnerable is an imperative” for India, given New Delhi’s no-first-use commitment. New Delhi’s ability to deploy SLBMs will align India’s naval capabilities with its nuclear doctrine, according to Verma. In a 1999 publicly released draft of its nuclear doctrine, New Delhi stated its intention to develop a “triad of aircraft, mobile land-based missiles and sea-based assets” and said it required “sufficient, survivable, and operationally prepared nuclear forces” for deterrence.

Indian, Pakistani, and U.S. experts are concerned that India’s pursuit of the triad could lead Pakistan to develop its own SLBM capability. Abhijit Singh, a research fellow at New Delhi’s National Maritime Foundation, argued in a June 29 article that the expansion of India’s navy has “become an excuse” for Pakistan to expand its own capabilities to include naval nuclear missiles.

Although Pakistan did not respond to India’s announcement on the K-15, Adm. Asif Sandila, Pakistan’s chief of naval staff, said in a Feb. 20 interview with Defense News that the “nuclearization of the Indian Ocean” would not contribute to regional stability and that Pakistan would be taking “necessary measures to restore the strategic balance.” In a May 19 press release, Sandila announced the establishment of Pakistan’s Naval Strategic Force Command, which he said would oversee a sea-based second-strike capability that will “ensure regional stability.”

India already possesses the capabilities to deliver nuclear warheads using land-based missiles and bombers (fig. 1).

New Delhi is working to improve the range and accuracy of its nuclear-capable land-based missiles, which currently comprise primarily the short-range Prithvi-1 and Agni-1 systems. India has deployed two medium-range solid-fueled missiles, the Agni-2 and the Agni-3, although some experts question whether both systems are fully operational. The Agni-2, which has a 2,000-kilometer range, was tested successfully Aug. 9. According to a Defence Ministry statement, all systems “functioned fully.” The Agni-3 was last tested in February 2010.

India also is developing longer-range systems and successfully tested the Agni-5 on April 19. This three-stage solid-fueled ballistic missile has a tested range of 5,000 kilometers. Under the most commonly used classification system, 5,500 kilometers is the dividing line between intermediate-range and intercontinental ballistic missiles.

The Indian air force is believed to have three types of bombers capable of flying nuclear missions. In January, the Indian government announced it would be buying a fourth type of nuclear-capable fighter plane, the Rafale, from France.

India announced the successful development of a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) in July, bringing the country one step closer to completing the strategic nuclear triad, which also includes the ability to deliver warheads via land-based missiles and bombers.

NSG Still Mulling Indian Membership

Daniel Horner

The Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) continued discussions on admitting India to the group, but apparently remained divided on the issue during its annual plenary meeting last month in Seattle.

In a statement released June 22, the last day of the meeting, the 46-member group said only that it “continued to consider all aspects of the implementation of the 2008 Statement on Civil Nuclear Cooperation with India and discussed the NSG relationship with India.” That wording was identical to what the group said on the subject in last year’s statement.

The NSG is not a formal organization, and its guidelines are not binding.

In September 2008, the group eased long-standing restrictions on nuclear trade with India by its members. NSG rules generally forbid the sale of nuclear goods such as reactors and fuel to countries that, like India, are not parties to the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT).

In November 2010, during a visit to India, President Barack Obama announced his support for Indian entry into the NSG and three other multilateral export control groups. At the NSG’s 2011 plenary meeting, the United States submitted a “Food for Thought” paper on options for bringing India into the group.

A key criterion for NSG membership is that a country is a party to and complying with the NPT or a nuclear-weapon-free-zone treaty. India would be the first country that did not meet that criterion.

In a June 27 interview, U.S. Deputy Energy Secretary Daniel Poneman, the new NSG chairman, said members had expressed “a variety of the views” on the issue of Indian membership. As Poneman noted, the NSG makes decisions by consensus. He characterized the discussion as one of “food-for-thought ideas.”

Asked about India’s lack of NPT membership, which some countries have indicated would be a stumbling block, Poneman said that there are “numerous ways [the Indians] can attest their commitment to nonproliferation norms” and that “the full panoply of [Indian] commitments is being looked at.” Among India’s commitments is its declaration that it is adhering to the NSG export guidelines.

Pressing China on Reactor Deal

On another ongoing issue for the NSG, Poneman said the United States and other countries were continuing to seek information from China about its plans to sell two reactors to Pakistan, which is not an NPT party.

When China joined the NSG in 2004, it had already built a power reactor at Pakistan’s Chashma site. It claimed at the time that, under the NSG’s “grandfather” provisions, it was entitled to build a second one, on the grounds that the second project was covered in its existing agreement with Pakistan. By most accounts, China told the NSG members that its agreement with Pakistan covered those two units but that it would not supply Pakistan with any reactors beyond those. China reportedly now is arguing that the proposed additional reactors also are grandfathered.

When word of the planned sale of the so-called Chashma-3 and -4 reactors emerged two years ago, a U.S. official said, “Without an exception granted by the NSG by consensus, Chinese construction of additional nuclear power plants in Pakistan beyond what was grandfathered in 2004 would be inconsistent with NSG guidelines and China’s commitments to the NSG.” (See ACT, June 2010.)

In the interview, Poneman said the United States is “not the only government that has this set of concerns.” The U.S. government “has been very clear” about its concerns and has “repeatedly asked” China for more details, he said. The Chinese have replied, but the United States would like more detail, he said. “We’ve been pressing for answers, and we’re still pressing,” Poneman said.

Lists Being Updated

In its statement at the Seattle meeting, the NSG “emphasized the importance of keeping its lists up to date with technological developments and took stock of the ongoing fundamental review process” through which it keeps its export control lists current. Poneman said the highest U.S. priority for the upcoming year was to complete the review. Some changes to the list were approved at the meeting, and more are coming, he said.

According to the statement, NSG members also “discussed brokering and transit and agreed to consider these matters further.” In the case of some exports, the main proliferation concern may come not from the supplier or the ultimate recipient but from an intermediary, Poneman said. The group wants to be sure “not to turn a blind eye if that’s a vulnerability” and will take up that issue “in a way not done until now,” he said.

In an interview last September, Poneman’s predecessor, Piet de Klerk of the Netherlands, discussed the possibility of creating “stronger relationships with different [NSG] stakeholders, be it media, be it civil society.” Poneman said that, at the Seattle meeting, de Klerk provided a briefing on those ideas, which got an “overall positive response.” The group will “continue consultations” on transparency issues, he said. It makes sense “to open the aperture,” and the group will look for opportunities to do that, he said.

The NSG chairmanship rotates annually among the member countries. A country kicks off its chairmanship year by hosting the plenary meeting.

The Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) continued discussions on admitting India to the group, but apparently remained divided on the issue during its annual plenary meeting last month in Seattle.

India Announces Successful Agni-5 Test

Eric Auner

The Indian government announced on April 19 that it had successfully conducted the first test of the nuclear-capable Agni-5 ballistic missile.

The Agni-5 is the first Indian ballistic missile capable of reaching almost the entire Chinese landmass, including Beijing, as well as the Middle East. India was already capable of reaching all of Pakistan, India’s other nuclear-armed neighbor, with its existing nuclear-capable ballistic missiles.

The three-stage Agni-5 is solid fueled and can carry a 1,500-kilogram payload a distance of 5,000 kilometers, according to news reports. The missile was fired from Wheeler Island, off the eastern coast of the country.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh called the test “another milestone in our quest to add to the credibility of our security and preparedness and to continuously explore the frontiers of science.” Singh said that he hoped the scientists involved with the Agni-5 would continue to promote “self-reliance in defense and other walks of national life.” India has long emphasized domestic development of advanced military technologies.

The Agni-5, which is road and rail mobile, according to India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), is the latest in the Agni series of ballistic missiles, which have had progressively longer ranges. The deployed Agni-3 has a range of 3,000 kilometers. India tested the Agni-4, which has a range of 3,500 kilometers, last November. (See ACT, January/February 2012.)

The DRDO, which is the main Indian government entity responsible for developing new advanced military technologies such as ballistic missiles, issued a press release that said the Agni-5’s “composite Rocket Motors have performed well and made India completely self-reliant.” Other indigenous technologies incorporated into the missile included the “Ring Laser Gyro based Inertial Navigation System” and the “Micro Navigation System,” according to the press release.

In an April 19 U.S. Department of State press briefing, spokesman Mark Toner reiterated his previous statement that the United States “urge[s] all nuclear-capable states to exercise restraint regarding their nuclear and missile capabilities” while recognizing India’s “solid nonproliferation record.”

An intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) typically is defined as being able to carry a given payload a distance of 5,500 kilometers or more. Given its declared range of 5,000 kilometers, the Agni-5 would be considered an intermediate-range ballistic missile. Media reports and analysts in India and elsewhere have described the Agni-5 as either an ICBM or long-range missile. India could extend the range of the Agni-5 by using a payload lighter than 1,500 kilograms. Generally, nuclear-capable missiles have a payload capacity of 500 kilograms and higher.

Official reaction from Pakistan has been muted. According to a Pakistani official speaking at a press briefing held after the launch, India had informed Pakistan of the launch, consistent with an agreement between the two countries on prenotification of ballistic missile launches.

Pakistan tested the Shaheen-1A nuclear-capable ballistic missile on April 25, according to a press release from the Pakistani military’s Inter Services Public Relations office. The release did not state the range of the missile, but analysts said it was approximately 700 kilometers.

China, with which India fought a war in 1962, has not reacted strongly to the test. In an April 19 statement, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Liu Weimin said, “China and India are cooperative partners rather than competitive rivals.” The Chinese state-owned Global Times, however, published an editorial soon after the test, warning that “India should not overestimate its strength” and that India “would stand no chance in an overall arms race with China.”

Some Chinese analysts have claimed that the Agni-5 actually has a range of 8,000 kilometers, according to the Indo-Asian News Service.

In a piece on the website of the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, a think tank affiliated with the Indian government, Abhijit Singh wrote that the test may “end up impacting the balance-of-power equation in the subcontinent” as well as “the broader India-China relationship.”

India is not party to any international agreement that limits its ability to develop and test ballistic missiles. When India and Pakistan conducted nuclear tests in 1998, the UN Security Council passed Resolution 1172, which condemned the tests and called on both countries to “cease development” of nuclear-capable ballistic missiles. Both countries have developed and tested nuclear-capable ballistic missiles since the resolution’s passage.

Meira Kumar, the speaker of the Lok Sabha, the Indian Parliament’s lower house, called the Agni-5 test “a major leap forward in India’s missile technology and military deterrent capabilities,” according to the Economic Times, an Indian newspaper. Nitin Gadkari, leader of India’s largest opposition party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), “congratulated the DRDO scientists for this proud milestone” in a statement on the BJP’s website.

DRDO Chief Controller for Research and Development W. Selvamurthy told the Indian television program Headline Today that the Agni-5 can carry multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicles. He said that this capability has been “proven” but was not “demonstrated” during this most recent trial.

Five countries currently possess ICBMs: China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States. North Korea unsuccessfully attempted to launch a satellite into orbit on April 13 (see page 29). That test, which was widely seen as a cover for a long-range ballistic missile test, was met with international condemnation, including from the United States.

India is not a member of the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), the international group that coordinates export controls for missile technology. The Obama administration is supporting Indian membership in the MTCR and other regimes that limit exports of sensitive technology. (See ACT, December 2010.)

The MTCR does not limit partner nations’ own missile testing and deployments. However, since 1993 the United States has had a policy of requiring that countries joining the group to adhere to the regime’s key missile-range restrictions for their own missiles as well.

The Indian government announced on April 19 that it had successfully conducted the first test of the nuclear-capable Agni-5 ballistic missile.


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