Importance of Agni-V in the Doval strategy to counter China and Congress’ lazy commentary

Today India successfully completed first user trial of nuclear capable Agni-V missile. The fourth (and last) experimental trial was completed on December 26, 2016.

At this juncture it is appropriate to revisit one of the riveting speeches of NSA Ajit Doval on importance of missile capability to counter Chinese aggression in Asia.

Importance of Missiles in Doval’s China Strategy

On August 21, 2010, during the Universal Brotherhood Day at Vishwa Adhyayan Kendra (Centre for International Studies), one person among the audience stood up and asked a question to Ajit Doval. “How should India deal with China, because Pakistan exists and will exist because of China?” Doval answered :

I think that is a very very valid question. Let me devote some time for it. Let us put on the graph papers where [things stand] China’s comprehensive national power today is about three times higher than India. And in next 50 years we will not be able to equal it. China is converting its economic power into its military and strategic power at a very fast rate, faster than what we had anticipated. They have advanced their strategic ability build-up by about 10 years. In these days of acute economic shortages/difficulty they are doing with great [zeal] . They are doing is the time when they can do it at the cheapest cost.

After this he cites a case where China assertively stopped a US -Korea naval exercise by threatening to launch a missile. He goes on to analyse the way in which China was building naval bases in Coco Islands (Myanmar), Chittangong port (Bangladesh), Gwadar (Pakistan), and Hambantota (Sri Lanka). According to him, China is slowly becoming a blue water navy (a maritime superpower capable of operating world wide ). To counter this, Doval feels it is best to have precise missiles that can reach economic hubs of China. He went on to say :

I think the best strategy for India would be to develop its missile capacity to a very high degree. China is extremely vulnerable today because all its comprehensive national power will be burst if its economic installations are threatened. And as China is progressing at a very fast pace its economic installations are coming up very fast. [..]

If China understands that India’s missile striking capacity is so much that we can reach Guangzhou, Shanghai and the port areas, that is, within 24 hours their economic capacity would be decapacitated (it will be a deterrence). India has got to make up its mind to develop its strategic missile capacity. [..]

Fortunately, I think, there has been a lot of pressure and the government has been going ahead and I think in the last three years there has been considerable progress.

Why Doval Strategy is India’s best bet to counter China

Ajit Doval is absolutely right in this regard. China’s economic heft and population is concentrated on its eastern coastlines. The imaginary line called Heihe Tengchong line was drawn by Chinese geographer Hu Huanyong in 1935. It divides China into two distinctly different regions. West of this line, China’s 64% of land area supports only 4% of its population, where as 96% of its population lives in the eastern side of the line. Thus, Agni V, which has a range of 5000 km should be able to reach key economic installations in any part of this area. This will be a key deterrent to Chinese aggression in Indian ocean.

Congress Mouthpiece’s Remarks on Doval’s strategy

As expected, Congress mouthpiece (National Herald) has made lazy remarks on Doval’s push for missile capability in the recent past. It tried to interpret the Doklam road building activity as a response to Doval’s missile strategy.  In its article published on Jul 15th 2017 said :

Amidst speculation that NSA Ajit Kumar Doval could visit Beijing for talks on the border standoff, questions are being asked if China’s move is to checkmate Doval’s push for long-range missiles [..]

While Doval is known to have advocated capacity building in India’s long-range missile system as a deterrent to China, observers wonder if the Chinese road building efforts are a response to convey that if a missile is ever deployed, China would be prepared to push deep into Indian territory.

The article does not appreciate the strategy or provide any alternate strategy to counter China’s activity in Doklam. It sounds more like a complaint or a lazy remark on a serious strategic issue. A national party which has been in power for so long must be more careful and responsible while making any comment on issues of India’s security. It is also important to note that Rahul Gandhi met Chinese Ambassador during the Doklam standoff. We still don’t know what transpired in that meeting.

Once the NDA government took over Agni Missile development has progressed at a swift pace. This indicates that the strategy proposed by Doval in 2010 answer to a question is seeing the light of the day. The Agni-V is a fine achievement by DRDO that deserves appreciation of the entire nation.