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India far behind Pakistan and China in nuclear technology: experts

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By Asif Mehmood (Daily Times report)

 * Nuclear experts say Indian missile technology inferior to that of Pakistan

* Indian delivery systems have reliability issues

LONDON: The world’s leading nuclear experts have revealed that Indian nuclear technology and capabilities are far behind than its putative adversaries, Pakistan and China.

Hans M Kristensen, director of the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists and Robert S Norris, Senior Research Associate Natural Resources Defence Council Inc, Washington, in the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists revealed that for New Delhi, the principal means of weapons delivery remains fixed-wing aircraft like the Mirage-2000 and the Jaguar. Unlike Pakistan and China, which have substantial deployed missile arsenals, India’s missile force is lagging, despite the test-launch of the Agni V in 2012.

The Bulletin notes, “The Agni I and Agni II, despite being declared operational, both have reliability issues that have delayed their full operational service.” The other missiles in the Agni series – the Agni III, IV and V – all remain under development. Indeed, the report notes that “the bulk of the Indian ballistic missile force is comprised of three versions of Prithvi missiles, but only one of these versions, the army’s Prithvi I, has a nuclear role”. Considering that the lumbering Prithvi I requires hours to get ready for launch and has a range of just 150km, it indicates that the Indian nuclear weapons capability is short-legged indeed, the experts said.

Nevertheless, the Bulletin notes, the development of the Agni V has introduced “a new dynamic into the already complex triangular security relationship between India, Pakistan and China”.

Former Indian naval chief Admiral Arun Prakash has admitted that India is lagging in nuclear capabilities and said, “We have to rely on the word of our DRDO/DAE scientists as far as performance, reliability, accuracy and yield of missiles and nuclear warheads are concerned. Unfortunately, hyperbolic claims coupled with dissonance within the ranks of our scientists have eroded their credibility.”

“As of now,” the Bulletin says, “we estimate that India has produced 80-100 nuclear warheads”. In the case of Pakistan, whose evaluation was done in 2011, the Bulletin analysis has said that “it has the world’s fastest-growing nuclear stockpile”, estimating that Pakistan “has 90-110 nuclear weapons”. The Pakistani arsenal, too, consists of mainly aircraft-dropped bombs, but with its Chinese-supplied missiles, it has a deployed arsenal of missiles like the Ghaznavi, Shaheen I and Ghauri and is developing longer-range missiles. Significantly, Pakistan’s India-specific arsenal comprises of the Nasr short-range (70km) ballistic missile, which can use nuclear weapons to take out troop formations and Pakistan is in the advanced stage of developing two cruise missiles – the Babar and the Raad.

If this is dismaying for New Delhi, the comparison with China is positively alarming. Beijing has an arsenal of 240 or so warheads and it is adding to this number, though not at the pace Pakistan is. Its nuclear weapons are primarily delivered through a mature missile arsenal with ranges from 2,000-11,000km. A large number of Chinese missiles, including their cruise missiles, are primarily for use in non-nuclear conventional battle role. Raghavan acknowledges that “China is a different kettle of fish”, but he says even so, with the Agni V test, “India’s progress has been commendable”. But there are big differences between India and China in terms of technology and capability.

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