By now I am sure we have all heard of Kim Jong Un’s announcement that North Korea is putting the final touches to preparations for an ICBM test, and Donald Trump’s reaction to this on twitter which included a missive directed against China.
Less would know that on December 26 India tested the nuclear capable Agni-V intermediate range ballistic missile, with a range of 5000km, and on January 4 tested the Agni-IV intermediate range missile with a range of about 4000km. Some reports suggest that the Agni-V has a longer range than this, that is India is understating the range, something akin to a lower range ICBM. Both are solid fuelled, with the Agni-V having three stages and the Agni-IV two. The Agni-V has now been tested 4 times, and the Agni-IV 6 times.
Both tests come not long after India became a full member of the Missile Technology Control Regime. The Hague Code of Conduct Against Ballistic Missile Proliferation, of which MTCR members are signatory, calls upon all states to demonstrate restraint in their own development of ballistic missiles capable of delivering weapons of mass destruction and to reduce the size of their missile arsenals where possible.
United Nations Security Council Resolution 1172 calls upon
India and Pakistan immediately to stop their nuclear weapon development programmes, to refrain from weaponisation or from the deployment of nuclear weapons, to cease development of ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons.
Indian reports stress that the Agni-IV and the Agni-V are directed at China. The Agni-V will give India wide coverage against Chinese targets, and the Agni-IV puts Beijing and Shanghai within reach if launched from northern India. Some enthusiastic Indian reports, one must watch those carefully, ascribe to the Agni-V a MIRV capability.
As the United States, and much of the western media, roundly condemns North Korea for a televised declaration of intent to test a missile reportedly capable of reaching some targets on the US homeland, with salvos of condemnation directed Beijing’s way from President elect Trump, India quietly and with little fanfare and, significantly, little condemnation in the West successfully tests ballistic missiles with a view to targeting Chinese cities with nuclear weapons.
Much water has flowed under the bridge since UN Sec Res 1172, and India increasingly is being welcomed into the established club of nuclear weapon states, a process led by the United States, as US military cooperation with India also deepens. During the first test of the Agni-V, in 2012, the New York Times reported that
The United States, which led the criticism of North Korea’s missile launching last Friday, appeared to warily endorse the Indian missile test. “We urge all nuclear-capable states to exercise restraint regarding nuclear capabilities,” said Mark C. Toner, a State Department spokesman. “That said, India has a solid nonproliferation record,” he added, and noted that India had a “no first use” policy on nuclear weapons.
Back in the day Delhi had a label for this.
Things become different, however, when you get to be an honorary white.