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  • U.S. Nods to India's Closing Missile Gap with China

    India’s successful test of the Agni-V, a nuclear-capable long-range missile, is a major step forward for New Delhi in attaining nuclear deterrence against regional rival China. The lack of U.S. condemnation of India’s latest missile test demonstrates that the U.S. is comfortable with Indian progress in the nuclear and missile fields and appreciates India’s need to meet the emerging strategic challenge posed by rising China.

    The Agni-V has extended India’s missile reach to about 3,100 miles, marking a major achievement in its missile development program. Until this week, Indian missiles had a range of about 2,200 miles. The Agni-V is scheduled to become fully operational in two to three years.

    It is telling that no country has criticized India’s missile test. The U.S. State Department simply called on all nuclear-capable states to exercise restraint but also noted India’s solid record on nonproliferation and its cooperation with the international community on nuclear issues. This is a far cry from Washington’s position on Indian ballistic missile development throughout the 1990s, when Washington pressured New Delhi to modify its nuclear and missile posture.

    Back then, the U.S. sought to convince both India and Pakistan “to cap, roll back, and eventually eliminate” their nuclear and missile capabilities. The U.S. had opposed the deployment of India’s short-range Prithvi missile and development of its medium-range Agni missile. The U.S. also imposed sanctions on India’s civilian space programs in 1992 because of the potential for rocket technology to contribute to India’s ballistic missile capability.

    The new U.S. stance also demonstrates a welcome evolution in U.S. nonproliferation policy. While some may view this evolution as a step away from U.S. nonproliferation commitments, this is not necessarily the case. What it recognizes is that U.S. nonproliferation policy should not be a one-way street, where potentially aggressive, non-status quo powers like China build up their nuclear and ballistic missile forces, and the U.S. responds by criticizing its friends and allies for responding to the emerging threat. It is a paradox, but nonetheless true, that sometimes the best option for confronting proliferation is to prepare to respond in kind. From this perspective, the Chinese, in large measure, have themselves to blame for this missile test by India.

    In turn, this responsive approach raises the question of how the U.S. should pursue nonproliferation goals in South Asia looking forward. First, it needs to account for the fact that it is pursuing these goals under a circumstance where proliferation has already taken place, and should create incentives for both China and India to walk back their nuclear and missile programs. The goal should be to encourage both sides to adopt more defensive strategic postures, as opposed to relying on first strike and retaliatory nuclear options.

    Since the official Chinese response to India’s missile launch was muted, one has to wonder whether Beijing recognizes that this situation is due, in part, to its own actions. It is striking that the Chinese Foreign Ministry responded to the test by stating that India and China were cooperative partners, not rivals. On the other hand, it is equally noteworthy that a Chinese editorial in one of its leading dailies warned India away from “arrogance” and stated that “India would stand no chance in a nuclear arms race with China.”

    India–China trade has grown steadily over the last decade, and presumably, neither side wants another border conflict to erupt. However, India is suspicious about Chinese cooperation with Pakistan’s nuclear program, and China has taken steps—such as refusing to grant visas to Indian citizens from areas where the Sino–Indian border is under dispute—that have raised tensions in recent years.

    The U.S. change in position with regard to Indian missile capabilities demonstrates how far the U.S.–India relationship has evolved over the last decade. Now the U.S. views India as a strategic partner with growing economic and political clout that will contribute to promoting security and stability in Asia. The Heritage Foundation, in a backgrounder published last July, called on the Administration to pursue robust and strategic engagement with India to encourage a stable balance of power in Asia that prevents China from dominating the region and surrounding seas.

    Posted in Featured [slideshow_deploy]

    9 Responses to U.S. Nods to India's Closing Missile Gap with China

    1. G Jones says:

      As a conservative with stong support for our military the discussion about nuclear is wrong in every way. There will be no winning in any nuclear war…PERIOD! We need to stop proliferation in every place around the world! For a leaderthat to eliminate millions in a country over someones beliefs is wrong, no matter what the disagreement is about. Just understand there is NO NUCLEAR OPTION that is good! Nobody should have that much destructive force available to them for ANY reason.

      I propose that our leaders duke it out, instead of sending other peoples children to do their dirty work for them. Our political system would be much different if this were the rule, as would our choice in leaders.

    2. rotate-this says:

      With India musted response. Let see how your reaction would be when Pakistan launches it ICMB soon. I am curious how the press and US will react. North Korea was singled out.

    3. Siachen says:

      The US policy in South Asia and vis-a-vis India and China was driven by the Cold War and long outlasted the compulsions behind it. Some day historians will look back and recognize that the US was too slow in recognizing its shared interests with another democracy, and went too far in propping up a hegemonic dictatorship to its own eventual detriment.

      Regarding your backgrounder published in July 2011, it is a superb analysis of the diplomatic and military dance between India and China. Your map, however, errs in showing the Line of Control in Kashmir veering off East instead of North to include the Siachen Glacier, already under Indian control. This territory is linked to China's usurpation of the Aksai Chin region and Pakistan's willingness to cede territory to China. Maps such as this have been used by Pakistan to push its mischievous claim that North to the glacier actually means North-east to the Karakoram pass, which would give China another possible route into the subcontinent. Please, therefore, exercise caution in putting out erroneous maps of the region.

    4. Dr V. C. Bhutani says:

      For quite some time I have been concerned about US attention being limited perhaps to preservation of essentially US national interests. While the US pursued Al Qaeda and Taliban in Afghanistan and Iraq, US attention was increasingly centred on Al Qaeda and Taliban activities and not so much on the equally disruptive activities of Pakistan’s terrorists of several hues and nomenclatures. In fact, the US has for long just turned its face away while Pakistan continued its patronage to and use of terror and terrorist outfits which, as we know and as Americans know, were recruited, trained, financed, and guided in every terrorist operation by Pakistan’s very own ISI operating through its terrorist outfits. All this has been heavily documented by now. To be continued.
      V. C. Bhutani, Delhi, India, 25 Apr 2012, 1345 IST

    5. Dr V. C. Bhutani says:

      From the Indian point of view, the most noticeable expression of this has been Mumbai 26/11 (2008). Everybody who is anybody has seen that 26/11 was the handiwork of Lashkar-e-Taiba of Pakistan. Even the US has been saying the same thing and has been insisting with the Pakistan government to bring to book those who were responsible for that operation. Pakistan did not lift a little finger in this matter.
      Now, US forces withdrew from Iraq, without leaving a US presence behind. The assumption was that this was almost “mission accomplished” and it was time to go home. In the AfPak area, the Taliban were thrown out of power (2001) and almost 10 years later Osama bin Laden was killed (2011), and we are told Mr Obama is keen on withdrawing US/Nato troops from Afghanistan within 2014. This too seems to be tantalizingly similar to “mission accomplished”. To be continued.
      V. C. Bhutani, Delhi, India, 25 Apr 2012, 1345 IST

    6. Dr V. C. Bhutani says:

      US national interests have been protected, numerous attempted terrorist attacks on US soil have been prevented over the years, and the US believes that there is no further need to maintain combat troops in Afghanistan, or anywhere else. It has been said by several observers that the Taliban are regrouping and even Al Qaeda is showing sings of reviving. We can understand that the US probably has no real appetite for being the world’s policeman at all times and in all places, but my question is really this. Is the US only concerned about protecting US national interests and US national security, without concern for the interests and security of others? If the answer is yes, then this amounts to US withdrawal from world leadership, about which Mr Obama speaks so eloquently from time to time. To be concluded.
      V. C. Bhutani, Delhi, India, 25 Apr 2012, 1345 IST

    7. Dr V. C. Bhutani says:

      Mr Obama may continue to believe that the US remains the world leader but the US will not be much of a world leader if Al Qaeda and Taliban are free and able to revive and engage in terrorist activity again, even if not on US mainland. The US may run away from Afghanistan and the Middle East, as the US indeed ran away from Vietnam, Iraq, and from elsewhere in the past, but that will assuredly be a precursor of renewed war later on with terrorists, with whatever name and in whatever country.
      V. C. Bhutani, Delhi, India, 25 Apr 2012, 1345 IST

    8. D Carter says:

      US has never been nor will ever be a friend of India or Indians. US wants to see India broken up and Hindus eradicated. It wants islam to rule the world and both Israel and India are coming in this grand plan. Mark this post for the future, may be not in the 20 – 30 years, but certainly in the future beyond that, thanks to US and its religious bigot friends in Pakistan and Europe, there will be no India as we know it.

    9. Raj Mathur says:

      @ D Carter – Good Morning. I can see that you had a pretty rough night and are living in your delusion of sorts. India – China – USA will form a strategic tie up for sure. And as of you Mr.Carter or should I say Mr.Pakistani, it was a good try to camouflage behind an english name and try so well. I think you better think of your Porkistan, which shall be divided into 4 pieces for SURE.

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