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India: Strategic Capability Demonstration and Signaling

Published Oct 04, 2020
Updated Oct 04, 2020


India China standoff in Ladakh is entering the sixth month now. While on the Line of Actual Control (LAC) the alignment of which is now increasingly controversial with the time span of differential varying from 1959 to date, there is a degree of force parity that has been achieved and, “standstill agreement,” is now in place and holding out.

India in the meanwhile going by the classical playbook of strategic gamesmanship with tests of advanced weapons system such as hypersonic missiles has added infrastructure activities.

While many of these activities such as the test of the hypersonic test vehicle and Shaurya missile are symbolic in nature and capabilities will take some time to actually fructify, infrastructure enhancements are substantial and may raise China’s hackles though these were some time in the offing. 

No First Use

At the same time India has confirmed commitment to No First Use on International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons on October 02. Representing the country, foreign secretary Harsh Shringla said: “India espouses the policy of ‘no first use’ against nuclear weapon states and non-use against non-nuclear weapon states. India is a key partner in global efforts towards disarmament and strengthening the non-proliferation order.”

Here is a summary of the capability demonstration and signalling separately- 

Capability Demonstration – Infrastructure

Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi opened the World’s longest Highway tunnel – Atal Tunnel at its south portal in Manali on October 03. The 9.02 Km long tunnel connects Manali to Lahaul-Spiti valley throughout the year and overcomes the six months blockade during the winters due to heavy snowfall. The Tunnel reduces distance by 46 Kms between Manali and Leh and time by 4 to 5 hours and thus provides round the year connectivity.

In September 43 bridges built in border areas of Ladakh, Arunachal Pradesh, Sikkim, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Punjab and Jammu and Kashmir were dedicated to the nation by Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on September 24. These included seven in Ladakh, 10 are in Jammu and Kashmir, two in Himachal Pradesh, eight each in Uttarakhand and Arunachal Pradesh and four each in Sikkim and Punjab. 

The Union Minister of State (Independent Charge), Development of North Eastern Region (DoNER), MoS PMO, Personnel, Public Grievances, Pensions, Atomic Energy and Space, Dr Jitendra Singh highlighted in a written reply in Rajya Sabha in September that there are 32 earth observation sensors with advanced capabilities, currently in orbit. These provide space based information. These are providing value added products comprising of geophysical & remote sensing data products derived using the data from meteorological, oceanographic and land remote sensing satellites. 

Capability Demonstration – Missile

        On September 23, successful test firing of the Prithvi short-range ballistic missile, developed by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) was carried out from the Integrated Test Range (ITR), Balasore off the coast of Odisha by Strategic Forces Command. DRDO conducted a night testfire of the nuclear-capable surface-to-surface missile as a part of user trials for the Indian Army. The launch of the missile, which has a strike range of 350 km, was carried out from a mobile launcher from complex 3 of the Integrated Test Range at Balasore. Last such test was conducted on November 20, 2019. 

Capability Signalling 

        Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) successfully demonstrated the hypersonic air-breathing scramjet technology with the flight test of Hypersonic Technology Demonstration Vehicle (HSTDV) at 1103 hours from Dr APJ Abdul Kalam Launch Complex at Wheeler Island, off the coast of Odishaon September 07. In a tweet, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said, “Congratulations to DRDO for successful flight of the Hypersonic Test Demonstration Vehicle today [September 07]. The scramjet engine developed by our scientists helped the flight achieve a speed 6 times the speed of sound! Very few countries have such capability today.”

BrahMos surface-to-surface supersonic cruise missile featuring indigenous Booster and Airframe Section along with many other ‘Made in India’ sub-systems was successfully flight tested for designated range at 1030 hours today on September 30, 2020 from ITR, Balasore in Odisha. It is one more major step in enhancing the indigenous content.

The BrahMos Land-Attack Cruise Missile (LACM) was cruising at a top speed of Mach 2.8. The successful launch has paved the way for the serial production of the indigenous booster and other indigenous components of the powerful BrahMos Weapon System.

The surface-to-surface medium range Shaurya missile, that can reach speeds of 7.5 Mach (seven and half times the speed of sound) was tested from a canister from the Abdul Kalam Island test range off Dhamra on September 03. Shaurya is the land based version of the submarine launched missile K 4.

Capability Signalling Infrastructure

In September it work being carried on an alternate axis to Ladakh was also revealed. “Agencies are working to provide alternative connectivity from Manali to Leh through Nimu-Padam-Darcha axis which will help in saving a lot of time in comparison with the existing routes passing through Zojila pass from Srinagar and the other route from Manali to Leh through Sarchu,” government sources told ANI.  

Impact Analysis

Infrastructure development is one of the major concerns that have been expressed by China for intrusions in Easter Ladakh. Given the series of activities that have been carried out in the past two months and also prior to the same, Chinese response is awaited. Never the less given the long term investments in these projects their fructification was evident and demonstration of capability and signalling denotes that India is not backing off from a confrontation with China in the long term.