Q&A: Development of Missiles in the Indian Subcontinent

Question: (in recent times there have been a series of missile-launching activities in the Indian sub-continent, and in the first of March 2017   India tested a system of interceptor missiles ahead of Abdul Karim Island (off the Odisha coast in the Bay of Bengal). Earlier this year, Pakistan tested a missile system (Ababil), with a range of up to 2,200 km, which is capable of carrying multiple warheads. Are these missile tests part of a new arms race between India and Pakistan? What are the regional implications of these experiments?). Jazzak Allah Khair.

Answer: The missile tests in India and Pakistan is a continuation of the efforts of the two countries in achieving nuclear survival through the development of the ability to carry out a second strike, and to understand this better, it is necessary to understand the summary of the nuclear arms race in the subcontinent.

1- States are seeking to acquire nuclear weapons for two main reasons; first is to double the conventional military superiority, for example, North Korea confirms this trend, it considers nuclear weapons as key to overcome the conventional military superiority of South Korea and to annoyAmerica, which has thousands of troops stationed in the Korean Demilitarized Zone … the second is to face the nuclear-armed states, for example, when the Soviet Union’s failed to expand the nuclear umbrella to include China during the Korean war, China proceeded to get nuclear weapons, prompting India to continue its nuclear program, which in turn led to the pursuit of Pakistan to launch its nuclear program , and so the three countries sought to reach a state of nuclear parity with each other to prevent a possible nuclear attacks between them: Waltz, K. (1981). The Spread of Nuclear Weapons: More May Be Better: Introduction. The Adelphi Papers, 21 (171), pp.383-425

2- However, the mere possession of nuclear warheads is not enough to deter the nuclear adversaries from hostilities, for nuclear deterrence to be achieved, the countries that possess nuclear warheads must have the ability to protect its nuclear arsenal from any possible attack. The ability to launch nuclear warheads and hitting the opponents nuclear targets is called the first strike, and the ability to absorb the first strike and launch a nuclear retaliatory strike is known as the second strike, i.e. it is able to survive as a result of the first strike and it has nuclear warheads enough to cope with strikes, and this is called nuclear Trinity, which is found when the state owns submarines capable of launching nuclear missiles; it is difficult to detect submarines, and they have the ability to carry out a counter strike that paralyzes the aviation capacity.

3- Nuclear deterrence between the nuclear states works well when both countries have the capacity of a second strike, this ensures that there is a mutual destruction to both parties, and the fear of this prevents the parties from launching a first strike, and nuclear strategists call this situation “mutual assured destruction (MAD)”. Thus, unlike conventional weapons, the real value of nuclear weapons is to deter the enemy from using the nuclear weapon.

4- Since India and Pakistan began the nuclear tests in 1998, nuclear scientists and strategists and politicians have sought to apply the above mentioned theory of nuclear deterrence on the ground, and because of the phenomenon of mutual assured destruction (MAD), both sides believe that the nuclear peace exists on the sub-continent, and this is the main engine behind the rapid development of missile technology, and reducing the size of nuclear warheads to be carried on the missiles, and the development of all operations. At the same time, it is necessary to use the perspective of nuclear deterrence to understand the recent missile tests between India and Pakistan over the past decade there has been progress in missile technology and securing a first strike option by both sides, however, recent developments suggest greater efforts to preserve the option of a second strike, see the following examples:

A- Submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM): on the ninth of January 2017, Pakistan conducted a successful test of the missile (Babur 3) from an undisclosed location in the Indian Ocean, cruise missiles were fired from an underwater with a range of 450 km, it was carried out in the sea to avoid being discovered. The Pakistani army said it was testing a rocket (Babur 3), which gives Islamabad the ability to carry out a “second strike”:


However, Pakistan does not possess nuclear submarines and have to carry (Babur 3) in the diesel and electricity-powered submarines, which has a limited ability to stay underwater. (Babur 3) is Pakistan’s response to India’s missile system (K4) launched by Indian submarines-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) which was launched in May 2014, with a range of up to 3,000 km, and can reach Pakistan and China, and thus India and Pakistan possess the ability of a second strike.

B- Multiple independently targetable reentry vehicles (MIRV): India conducted tests of the two missiles that have nuclear capability in December 2016 and January 2017. The first is the (Ajny- V), a surface to surface ballistic missile which is a rapid development of the nuclear arsenal, and the second (Ajni V) which carries the multi-purpose nuclear warheads with a range of 5,000 km. In addition, in January 2017 Delhi tested (Ajni-IV), a system that ranges up to 4,000 km. Missile (Ajni V) gives the possibility of striking nuclear targets which are located in China … This year, Pakistan tested a missile system (Ababil) that have the capabilities (multiple independently targetable reentry vehicles MIRV), and in a statement issued by the Pakistani army, it stated the following: ” the first successful operation took place to test  (Ababil) the surface to surface ballistic missile with a range of up to 2,200 km, capable of carrying multiple warheads, using (MIRV) technology, and is able to deal with multiple targets in details and defeat enemy radars of hostile targets “: https://www.dawn.com/news/1310630

The (Ababil) rockets were designed by Pakistan to overwhelm the defenses of the Indian ballistic missile nuclear shield. India is actively testing the interceptor missiles such as (Ashvin) to bring down possible Pakistani nuclear missile. Through the deployment of (MIRV) technology one nuclear missile can turn into several nuclear missiles, which nullifies the missile interceptor capability.

5- There is no doubt that the nuclear arms race between India and Pakistan is to prepare for the option of a second strike, which will upset the nuclear balance with India’s rival (i.e. China), while China is working on the minimum on the issue of nuclear deterrence. And India’s rapid development of (MIRV) technology and submarines carrying missiles has encouraged its leaders, the Indian army chief (Gen. Bipin Rawat) said that his country “is ready to fight a war on two fronts” with Pakistan and China at the same time:


The test of the Indian missile  (Ajni V) has angered China, the spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry (Chunying) said: “the Security Council of the United Nations have clear rules on whether India can develop ballistic missiles capable  of carrying nuclear weapons,” the ministry went on to say that India’s ambitions with (Ajni V) may be intended to counter China:


6- India could not have adopted this provocative policy without American support via the agreement (123) that was ratified in 2005, which enabled it to get a steady supply of nuclear fuel for its civilian reactors, and therefore the use of nuclear fuel in the Indian nuclear program. Trump’s administration indicated clearly that it wants to build on the progress made by previous US administrations to India, in the February 8th, 2017, the US Secretary of defense (Gen. James Mattis) praised in a telephone conversation with his Indian counterpart (Manohar Barikar) the “tremendous progress” made by India in the ” last years “and referred to the ” joint cooperation between the two countries in the field of defense, “he said that the new administration is keen to” maintain the momentum and build on it: ”


It is expected that America continues to exploit the nuclear arms race in the subcontinent to implicate China in the nuclear arms race, and America’s goal is to shift China from the economic activity to the military activity, to facilitate the collapse of China, just as the United States did with the Soviet Union. At present China still maintains the minimum nuclear deterrent and refuses to be drawn into a nuclear arms race.

12 Jumada II 1438 AH

11/3/2017 CE

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