News

DATE=4/11/99 TYPE=BACKGROUND REPORT NUMBER=5-43079 TITLE=INDIA MISSILE BYLINE=JIM TEEPLE DATELINE=NEW DELHI CONTENT= VOICED AT: INTRO: FOR THE FIRST TIME IN FIVE-YEARS, INDIA HAS TEST-FIRED ITS AGNI MEDIUM-RANGE BALLISTIC MISSILE. THE TEST FIRING OF AN UPGRADED VERSION OF THE MISSILE WENT AHEAD IN DEFIANCE OF INTERNATIONAL PRESSURE, AND THE UNITED STATES, BRITAIN, AND JAPAN HAVE EXPRESSED REGRET OVER THE ACTION. CORRESPONDENT JIM TEEPLE REPORTS FROM NEW DELHI, A LEADING INDIAN DEFENSE ANALYST SAYS THE MISSILE TEST SHOULD NOT BE SEEN AS LEADING TO AN ARMS RACE IN SOUTH ASIA, BUT AS A LOGICAL STEP FOR INDIA'S DEFENSE NEEDS. TEXT: A TEST FIRING OF THE THE UPGRADED VERSION OF THE AGNI MISSILE, WHICH MEANS "FIRE" IN HINDI, HAS BEEN RUMORED FOR WEEKS IN THE CAPITAL, NEW DELHI. THE MISSILE'S 25-HUNDRED KILOMETER RANGE IS A CONSIDERABLE IMPROVEMENT OVER ITS PREDECESSOR, WHICH WAS LIMITED TO TARGETS OF ABOUT 15-HUNDRED KILOMETERS. UNITED STATES OFFICIALS IMMEDIATELY EXPRESSED REGRET OVER THE MISSILE TEST. CALLING IT OUT OF STEP WITH RECENT DEVELOPMENTS THEY SAY INDICATED AN EASING OF TENSIONS IN THE REGION FOLLOWING LAST YEAR'S NUCLEAR TESTS. SINCE THE TESTS, SENIOR AMERICAN AND INDIAN DIPLOMATS HAVE BEEN TRYING TO REACH AGREEMENT ON A VARIETY OF ARMS CONTROL ISSUES. UDAY BHASKAR IS THE DEPUTY DIRECTOR OF THE INSTITUTE FOR DEFENSE STUDIES AND ANALYSIS IN INDIA -- A LEADING PUBLIC POLICY INSTITUTE WITH CLOSE TIES TO INDIA'S DEFENSE ESTABLISHMENT. HE SAYS THE MISSILE TEST SHOULD HAVE SURPRISED NO ONE AND SHOULD NOT AFFECT FUTURE TALKS BETWEEN INDIA AND THE UNITED STATES BECAUSE INDIAN DIPLOMATS HAVE MADE IT CLEAR TO THEIR AMERICAN COUNTERPARTS THAT THEY NEED A CREDIBLE DEFENSE. // BHASKAR ACTUALITY // INDIA INTENDS TO HAVE A CREDIBLE MISSILE DELIVERY SYSTEM. THAT HAS ALWAYS BEEN PUT UP FRONT. AND AMERICA'S OWN STRATEGIC COMMUNITY THAT LOOKS AT SOUTH ASIA IS AWARE OF THIS, SO IN THAT SENSE I DO NOT THINK IT IS A SURPRISE. // END ACTUALITY // MR. BHASKAR AND OTHER ANALYSTS CLOSE TO INDIA'S MILITARY SAY VARIOUS INDIAN GOVERNMENTS HAVE BEEN CRITICIZED FOR YEARS FOR MOVING TOO SLOWLY TO DEVELOP A MISSILE-DEFENSE SYSTEM. THE DEFENSE ANALYST SAYS ARGUMENTS FROM THE WEST ABOUT THE NEED FOR /NON PROLIFERATION DO NOT REALLY HAVE MUCH OF AN IMPACT IN NEW DELHI AND OTHER REGIONAL CAPITALS. // INSERT 2ND ACTUALITY // WE ARE DEALING WITH AN ENVIRONMENT WHICH IS VERY MUCH IN THE POST-PROLIFERATION STAGE AS FAR AS MISSILES ARE CONCERNED. AT LAST COUNT ASIA HAD 12 COUNTRIES THAT ARE MISSILE CAPABLE AND AS AMERICA KNOWS ONLY TOO WELL, THERE ARE NO DEFENSES AGAINST BALLISTIC MISSILES EXCEPT TO HAVE A SIMILAR SORT OF AUTONOMOUS CAPABILITY. // END ACTUALITY // UDAY BHASKAR SAYS INDIA WILL PUSH AHEAD TO DEVELOP A MORE EFFECTIVE MISSILE THAN THE AGNI-TWO -- A MISSILE WITH A RANGE OF MORE THAN THREE-THOUSAND KILOMETERS. BUT HE SAYS INDIA'S MISSILE PROGRAM IS NOT BEING DEVELOPED IN RESPONSE TO A PERCEIVED THREAT FROM ITS NEIGHBORS, SUCH AS PAKISTAN OR CHINA. HE SAYS INDIA'S MISSILE PROGRAM IS BEING DEVELOPED TO GIVE HIS COUNTRY FLEXIBILITY IN WHAT HE DESCRIBES AS A POST-PROLIFERATION WORLD. (SIGNED) NEB/JLT/RAE 11-Apr-99 9:05 AM EDT (1305 UTC) NNNN Source: Voice of America .