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STRATEGIC ISSUES
Games DRDO Plays-April 2011
False claims on the BMD programme are detrimental to India’s security
By Pravin Sawhney
 
Tall claims and empty boasts seem to have become the hallmark of the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO). The proclivity of the Director General, DRDO, Dr V.K. Saraswat and his team to exaggerate its achievements would be amusing to discerning people. Unfortunately, this amusement has grave national security implications and Dr Saraswat, a ballistic missile expert with the indigenous Prithvi ballistic missile being his crowning glory, should know this better than most. As the director general, DRDO, he is leading the nation’s home-grown Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD) programme. The claims made by him about the recently tested-fired Dhanush and Prithvi II ballistic missiles on March 11 and the BMD Endo-atmospheric interceptor test on March 6 are exaggerated beyond imagination. These should have been put into perspective by the Indian defence correspondents and experts, not only for domestic but international consumption as well, because the Pakistani establishment, while ignoring DRDO’s claims on Prithvi, utilises the boasts about the BMD to its strategic advantage. Making use of Saraswat’s chest-thumping, Pakistan is going ahead full throttle to more than match India’s humble BMD technological achievements; if at all, the programme is decades away from fruition.

According to US intelligence, while ahead of India in ballistic missiles capabilities since 2001, General Headquarters, Rawalpindi continues to increase its inventory of nuclear weapons’ land vector by citing India’s BMD claims as a destabilising factor. This writer had first-hand experience of this a few months ago. During the alumni meet at the Cooperative Monitoring Centre (Sandia National Laboratory) at Albuquerque, US in October 2010, a former director of Pakistan’s Strategic Plans Division, Brigadier Feroz Khan argued that India’s growing BMD capability had forced Pakistan to build more ballistic missiles.Given its unbridled inventory, it is a matter of time before the Pakistan Army will alter its war-fighting doctrine to align it with the Chinese People’s Liberation Army thinking. While supplementing air power, the difference between combat aircraft and ballistic missiles will narrow down to tighter control of the latter. This will upset the Indian Air Force combat numbers superiority over the Pakistan Air Force and force the Indian Army to review its operational level pro-active strategy, referred to as the Cold Start doctrine in the media, against the Pakistan Army. Given such implications, the defence minister needs to restrain Saraswat and the DRDO from making irresponsible statements. Apparently after the recent claims on the BMD project, defence minister A.K. Antony has expressed his displeasure to Saraswat.
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