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October 27, 2009

India Plans Missile Shield by 2010

by Steve Herman

Indian defense officials say the country will have a shield in place by 2010 to protect India from incoming missile that could be fired by Pakistan or China. National security experts, however, are less convinced. VOA correspondent Steve Herman reports from New Delhi.

One of India's top defense research scientists has revealed plans for a complete ballistic missile defense system to be deployed within three years.

Military analysts are greeting the announcement this week by V.K. Saraswat, chief controller of the Defense Research Development Organization, with some skepticism.

Professor Bharat Karnad, a national security expert at the Center for Policy Research, says India should not waste money on such a system at this point.

"The technology is not mature yet," he said. "Once the technology matures perhaps there is utility in having such a system. But short of that, I think, the money can be used for other purposes."

Pakistan on Tuesday tested a nuclear-capable cruise missile, the Babur, with an estimated range of 700 kilometers. The following day India announced the plan to implement by 2010 a two-layered system to counter any attacks by both ballistic and lower-flying cruise missiles.

India has tested its Agni III missiles, with a reported range of 3,000 kilometers to counter what it sees as the Pakistani threat.

India is also developing a longer-range missile, dubbed the Agni IV, designed to hit targets deep within China.

Indian defense officials say while they are going ahead with development of their indigenous ballistic missile defense system they are also considering purchasing existing systems being offered by the United States, Russia and Israel.

Defense analyst Karnad says if India insists on going ahead with such a system it would be better off spending money on its own research and development, rather than buying technology from a foreign country.

"No country has, as yet, developed fool-proof missile interdiction-interception technologies. Then it's best to do your R&D, continue doing it. But otherwise build up your stock of missiles because a whole salvo of missiles can defeat any kind of missile defense anybody can put up, at least in the present," said Karnad.

A test of an interceptor missile and related systems is planned for June of next year.