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The Asian Arms Race

By Stephanie Kutner

On April 18th, India launched the Agni (Sanskrit word for ‘fire’) 5 missile. The missile was launched just after 8 a.m. from Wheeler Island off the Eastern Indian coast of Odisha and rose to an altitude of more than 370 miles with its payload deployed as planned. The missile is capable of carrying a 1.5 metric ton warhead at least 3,100 miles.

India has now joined the elite ranks of China, Russia, Great Britain, France, Israel and the United States, which all possess long-range nuclear weapon capability. In light of North Korea’s failed attempts, this latest occurrence could signal the start of an Asian arms race. The Pakistani government will no doubt use this to validate their push for nuclear arms development as well. India has long seen China as a massive threat, and the 50-ton missile has proven capable of reaching such key cities as Beijing as well as Tehran and other major Asian cities.

Let us not forget the 1962 border war between India and China. Simon Denyar tells us that “China claims the Northeastern Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh, a thickly forested, mountainous region that shares cultural links with Tibet. India contests China’s occupation of a barren plateau in Kashmir, far to the west.” Also exacerbating the dispute was the fact that India had granted the Dalai Lama asylum. The war caused a revolution, a complete overhaul of India’s military strategies and weak defenses, to prepare it for similar events in the future.

The United States-India Nuclear Deal, signed into effect in 2008, is largely responsible for India’s missile launch. In the deal, if India agrees to inspectors, a moratorium on weapons testing and international safeguards, nuclear weapons testing can occur there. This has gone into effect despite the fact that India has never signed a nuclear non-proliferation treaty.

“Today’s successful Agni-V test launch represents another milestone in our quest to add to the credibility of our security and preparedness,” Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said in a statement. Defense Minister A.K. Anthony, called it an “immaculate success.”

A spokesman for China’s Foreign Ministry, Liu Weimin, said, “China and India are large developing nations. We are not competitors but partners. We believe that both sides should cherish the hard-won good state of affairs at present and work hard to uphold friendly strategic co-operation to promote joint development and make positive contributions towards maintaining peace and stability in the region.”

The Agni-V is expected to be operational by 2014–2015 after four to five repeatable tests by the DRDO (Defense Research and Development Organization of India). The economic success and rise to global competitiveness that the East has seen in recent decades is correlated to the natural off-shoot of military bolstering.