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U.S. Space Aid to India: On a "Glide Path" to ICBM Trouble?

Richard Speier

CHRONOLOGY: U.S. Missile Nonproliferation Policy and India’s Path to an ICBM Capability

In the weeks leading up to this month’s presidential visit to India, the U.S. nonproliferation community has been preoccupied with one facet of President George W. Bush’s push to bolster ties with New Delhi: his proposal for enhanced U.S.-Indian nuclear cooperation. Another element, however, also deserves close scrutiny: proposals, largely unexamined, for greater space ties. Given India’s reported ICBM development, these plans could destabilize international relations and potentially even threaten the United States. The Bush administration risks repeating in India the same errors that previously allowed damaging U.S. space technology transfers to China.

The Glide Path

U.S. officials have described both the nu clear and space cooperation agreements as part of a “glide path” that it has charted to improve relations with India. A glide path is the gentle course that an airplane follows as it descends to a safe landing. If the plane encounters an unexpected development, it can divert, regain altitude, and change its course. Because India has been developing nuclear weapons and the missiles to deliver them, U.S.-Indian technology relations have for many years remained up in the air, not heading for a safe landing.

As then-Secretary of State Colin Powell told The Washington Post in October 2003, the “glide path” was seen as “a way of bring ing closure” to a debate over three issues that had plagued U.S.-Indian relations.

“There was a basket of issues that they were always asking us about called, well, we called it—we nicknamed it, ‘The Trinity,’” Powell said. “How can we expand our trade in high tech areas, in areas having to do with space launch activities, and with our nuclear industry?”

Powell also said that U.S. officials wanted to “protect certain ‘red lines’ that we have with respect to proliferation, because it’s sometimes hard to separate within space launch activi ties and industries and nuclear programs, that which could go to weapons, and that which could be solely for peaceful purposes.”[1]

Nearly two years later, in July 2005, Bush and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh reached an agreement on space that was said to have accomplished these goals. New Delhi got what it wanted when the two leaders resolved to “build closer ties in space exploration, satellite navigation and launch, and in the commercial space arena .”[2] Washington won India’s agreement to adhere to Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) guidelines.

Yet, the agreement falls short on several grounds. First, it does nothing about India’s long-range missile development. As the 2005 deal was being negotiated, reports per sisted that India was preparing to produce an ICBM based on its massive Polar Space Launch Vehicle (PSLV). Second, depending on its precise form, the MTCR agreement could provide a shield against sanctions for some Indian exports to countries such as Iran —as U.S. law largely exempts certain types of MTCR adherents from U.S. missile proliferation sanctions. Third, India has expressed an interest in exporting missile technology (said to be below the MTCR threshold) to many countries.

The White House and Congress urgently need to reconsider this deal.

The Surya

President John F. Kennedy was once asked the difference between the Atlas space launch vehicle that put John Glenn into orbit and an Atlas missile aimed at the Soviet Union. He answered with a one-word pun: “Attitude.” The established path to a space launch capability for China, France, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, and the United States was to adapt a ballistic missile as a space launch vehicle.

India turned the process around, adapt ing a space launch vehicle as a ballistic missile. In the 1980s, India adapted a space launch vehicle, the SLV-3, to become the Agni medium-range ballistic missile. In keeping with India’s practice of describing nuclear and missile programs as civilian until their military character cannot be denied, India originally claimed that the Agni was a “technology demonstrator.” The Agni program now consists of three missiles with ranges, respectively, of approximately 700, 2,000, and 3,000 kilometers.

For nearly two decades, reports have indicated that India sought to use a simi lar tactic to develop an ICBM.[3] It appears, though, that India may have officially begun the ICBM project (commonly known as the Surya, although sometimes also known as Agni IV) in 1994.[4] Reports cite various dates, perhaps because the project has had several decision points.

Reports generally agree that the Surya program will result in several different missiles with ranges from 5,000 to 20,000 kilo meters.[5] It is widely claimed that the Surya will have the option of a nuclear payload, and sometimes the claim is made that the payload will consist of multiple nuclear warheads.

Reports also generally agree that the Surya will be a three-stage missile with the first two stages derived from the PSLV’s solid-fuel rockets. India obtained the solid-fuel tech nology for the SLV-3 and the PSLV from the United States in the 1960s.[6] India is said to be planning for the third Surya stage to use liquid fuel and to be derived either from the Viking rocket technology supplied by France in the 1980s (called Vikas when India manu factured PSLV stages with the technology) or from a more powerful, Russian-supplied cryogenic upper stage for the Geosynchro nous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV), which is an adaptation of the PSLV.

If the Surya uses PSLV rocket motors, as is most frequently reported, it will be an enor mous rocket with solid-fuel stages 2.8 me ters (about nine feet) in diameter and a total weight of up to 275 metric tons. This would make it by far the largest ICBM in the world, with a launch weight about three times that of the largest U.S. or Russian ICBMs.

There appears to be no literature on Indian plans to harden or conceal the Surya launch site, which would be difficult to do because of the missile’s size and weight. If a cryogenic third stage is used, the launch process will be lengthy. This means that the Surya is likely to be vulnerable to at tack before launch, making it a first-strike weapon that could not survive in a conflict. Indeed, the Surya’s threatening nature and its pre-launch vulnerability would make it a classic candidate for pre-emptive attack in a crisis. In strategic theory, this leads to “crisis instability,” the increased incentive for a crisis to lead to strategic attacks because of each side’s premium on striking first.

The one report of a mobile ICBM based on a combination of PSLV and Agni technology makes more military sense.[7] Yet, as described below, it entails other serious concerns.

Why would India want the Surya? Its reported ranges suggest the answer.

  • A 5,000-kilometer Surya-1 might overlap the range of a reported 5,000-kilometer upgrade of the Agni missile.[8] Surya-1 would have only one advantage over such an upgraded Agni: a far larger payload with the ability to carry a large, perhaps thermonuclear warhead or multiple nuclear warheads. India has no reason to need a missile of this range for use against Pakistan. The missile’s range is arguably appropriate for military operations against distant targets in China: the range from New Delhi to Beijing is 3,900 kilometers; the range from New Delhi to Shanghai is 4,400 kilometers; and the range from Mumbai to Shanghai is 5,100 kilometers.


  • An 8,000-to-12,000-kilometer Surya-2 would be excessive for use against China, although the distance from New Delhi to London is 6,800 kilometers; to Madrid, 7,400 kilometers; to Seattle, 11,500 kilometers; and to Washington, D.C., 12,000 kilometers. In 1997, an article based on information from officials in India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) or higher levels of India’s defense establishment stated flatly, “Surya’s targets will be Europe and the U.S.”[9]


  • A 20,000-kilometer-range Surya-3 could strike any point on the surface of the Earth.

Indian commentators generally cite two reasons for acquiring an ICBM: to estab lish India as a global power and to enable India to deal with “high-tech aggression” of the type demonstrated in the wars with Iraq.[10] Because there is no obvious reason for India to want a military capability against Europe, there is one target that stands out as a bull’s-eye for an Indian ICBM: the United States. The reported 12,000-kilometer Surya-2 range is tailor- made to target the United States.

India ’s Export History and the MTCR

The United States now might have dimin ished leverage if India decided to export missile technology to countries such as Iran , given that certain types of MTCR agreements tend to provide a shield from U.S. sanctions.[11]

India historically has had a close relation ship with Tehran.[12] Indian entities have supplied sensitive military technology and weapons of mass destruction (WMD)-re lated items to Iran. In diplomatic talks, the United States and Israel have urged India to cool this relationship, specifically in areas of military and energy cooperation and with respect to deliberations on Iran’s nuclear program by the International Atomic Energy Agency.[13] Additionally, the United States has imposed sanctions on several Indian firms and individuals for providing the militarily sensitive and WMD-related items.[14]

Nonetheless the Indian-Iranian relationship is strong. In January 2003, then-Iranian President Mohammad Khatami joined Indian President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam to watch Agni missiles roll by in the Indian Republic Day parade; and the two presidents signed a strategic accord providing India with access to Iranian bases in an emergency in return for Indian transfers of defense products, training, maintenance, and military mod ernization support.[15] This relationship is strongly supported by India’s left wing, and India cannot seem to extricate itself.[16] Even if the current ruling party could disentangle itself from Iran, the underlying political support for Iranian ties might lead a future Indian government to resume the relationship.

Aside from Iran, Indian entities have engaged in WMD-related transfers to Libya and Iraq,[17] India appears to be seeking new customers. India’s DRDO has aspirations to export missiles—said to be below the MTCR threshold at present—to “many African, Gulf and South-East Asian coun tries,” subject to government approval.[18]


The possibility of an Indian ICBM illustrates short-sightedness on the part of India and the United States. In seeking to become a global power by acquiring a first-strike weapon of mass destruction, the Indian government may be succumbing to its most immature and irresponsible instincts. The U.S. government, by offering India the “Trinity” of cooperation, is flirting with counterproductive activities that could lead to more proliferation.

If India completes the development of an ICBM, several consequences can be antici pated. Other countries will acquire an incentive to launch pre-emptive attacks against India in times of crisis, especially if the ICBM is of PSLV dimensions and, consequently, is easily targeted. India’s military funds will be diverted away from applica tions that would more readily complement “strategic partnership” with the United States. Tensions and dangers in Asia will rise.

Indian and U.S. foreign relations are also likely to suffer. An Indian ICBM would breed confusion and anger on the part of India ’s friends in Europe and the United States . That would likely spark a backlash against India that will hinder further co operation in a number of areas. India’s acts will serve as a goad to other potential missile proliferators and their potential suppliers to become more unrestrained.

To be sure, arguments can be—and have been—made in favor of such cooperation. Robert Blackwill,[19] Bush’s first ambassador to India, has contended that the value of a strategic alliance with India exceeds what some have dubbed “theological” concerns about proliferation. One can point out that India has already developed nuclear weapons and medium-range missiles, so continued resistance to such proliferation is futile. Some claim that India has not necessarily made the final decision to develop and ICBM. And Blackwill and others will say that in any case, India is our friend so we need not worry about its strategic programs. India has already developed nuclear weapons and medium-range missiles, but supplier restraint can slow down India’s missile progress and make such missiles more expensive and unreliable, perhaps delaying programs until a new government takes a fresh look at them and considers de-emphasizing them. Apart from the technical assistance that the United States is considering supplying, the relaxation of U.S. objections to foreign use of Indian launch services will augment the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) budget for rocket development.[20] Moreover, India has a long way to go to improve the performance of its missiles, and it has a history of using nuclear and space launch assistance to do just that. Some areas in which India can still improve its missiles are:

1) Accuracy. For a ballistic missile, accuracy deteriorates with range. India’s ICBM could make use of better guidance technology, and it might obtain such technology through high-technology cooperation with the United States .

2) Weight. Unnecessary weight in a missile reduces payload and range or forces the development of massive missiles, such as India’s PSLV-derived ICBM. India is striving to obtain better materials and master their use to reduce unnecessary missile weight. [21]

3) Reliability. India ’s space launch vehicles and medium-range missiles have suffered their share of flight failures. Engineering assistance in space launches could unintentionally improve India’s missile reliability, as was dem onstrated with the incident of unapproved technology transfers to China through launches of U.S. satellites.[22]

4) Multiple warheads. India ’s reported interest in missile payloads with multiple nuclear warheads means that certain elements of satellite technology could be diverted to military use. Deliberate or inadvertent transfers of technology associated with dispensing and orienting satellites could, as in the Chinese case, make it easier to develop multiple re-entry vehicles.

5) Countermeasures against missile defenses. Assistance to India in certain types of satellite technology, such as the automated deployment of structures in space, could aid the development of penetration aids for India’s long-range missiles. Given that the United States is an obvious target for an Indian ICBM, such countermeasures could help counter U.S. missile defenses.

Even if India’s missile programs were not materially aided by U.S. space launch cooperation, other countries might fill the gap. France and Russia, India’s traditional and less-restrained rocket technology suppliers, are certain to want a piece of any space action.

It is true that India has not necessarily made the final commitment to develop an ICBM, but many steps have been taken to this end. Even if India has no current intention to develop the Surya, intentions (and ruling parties) can change. Unwise U.S. space cooperation would facilitate India’s final steps toward an ICBM.

It is true that India is our friend and “strategic partner,” at least at the present time. History raises questions whether such friendship would continue through an adverse change in India’s ruling party or through a conflict with Pakistan. India’s interest in an ICBM, which in many ways only makes sense as a weapon against the United States, raises questions about whether the friendship is mutual. More over, nonproliferation policy is often directed against programs in friendly nations. Argentina, Brazil, Israel, Pakistan, South Africa , South Korea, Taiwan, and Ukraine are all friendly states for which the United States has attempted to hinder WMD and missile programs without un dermining broader relations. An exception for India is certain to be followed by more strident demands for exceptions elsewhere. Is the space launch component of “friendship” worth a world filled with states with nuclear-armed missiles?

India ’s missile program has evolved over more than four decades. The history of proliferation demonstrates the difficulty of holding to a strong nonproliferation policy over years, let alone decades. There will always be temptations to trade non proliferation for some bilateral or strategic advantage of the moment. In the current situation, India may have outnegotiated the United States . After India’s 1998 nuclear-weapon tests, the United States imposed sanctions and then gradually lifted them. In nuclear and rocket matters, this was not enough for India. Once the United States began easing up on India, the United States kept easing up.

The United States professes to be hold ing to its “red lines”—Powell’s words—in whatever kind of cooperation it is considering. Yet, the world needs to know where these lines are when it comes to space launch cooperation. It is one thing for the United States to provide launch services for Indian satellites. It is another for the United States to use or help improve India’s ICBM-capable rockets. Are the red lines firm or flexible? Is the glide path a slippery slope? These questions lead to a number of recommendations.


Under the July 2005 joint statement, the United States and India committed themselves to closer space ties. This does not require, nor should it encourage, U.S. cooperation on India’s ICBM pro gram directly or indirectly. In fact, the United States has already taken a step in the right direction by offering to launch Indian astronauts in upcoming space shuttle missions and to involve them to the fullest extent in the International Space Station.

The United States should do more to encourage India to launch its satellites and science packages on U.S. and foreign launchers by making these launches more affordable. The United States also should be forthcoming in offering India access, as appropriate, to the benefits of U.S. satellite programs, including communications, earth resource observation, and exploration of the cosmos.

India , in fact, has some of the world’s best astrophysicists and cosmologists. It is in our interest, as well as the world’s, that we welcome these Indian experts into the search for basic answers about the universe. We should make the data from the Hubble telescope and similar systems available to Indian scientists and encourage them to become full partners in its analysis.

On the other hand, there are some critical cautions to be observed.

1) Do not be naive about the nature of India’s program.

After more than two decades of reports about India’s interest in an ICBM, includ ing reports from Russia, statements on India ’s ICBM capability by the U.S. intelligence community, and the firing of an Indian official after he publicly described the Surya program, there should be no illusions. The reports consistently state that India’s ICBM will be derived from its space-launch vehicle technology.

The United States should not believe that it is possible to separate India’s “civil ian” space-launch program—the incubator of its ballistic missiles—from India’s military program.

The United States would be the primary target of an Indian ICBM, which would be used to protect India from the theoretical possibility of “high-tech aggression.”

The U.S. intelligence community should resume its semi-annual unclassified report ing to Congress on India’s nuclear and missile programs, which was discontinued after April 2003.

2) Do not assist India’s space launch programs.

The United States should not cooperate either with India’s space launches or with satellites that India will launch. India hopes that satellite launches will earn revenues that will accelerate its space program, including rocket development. U.S. payloads for Indian launches, such as the envisioned cooperative lunar project, risk technology transfer and invite other states to be less restrained in their use of Indian launches.

The United States should resume dis couraging other states from using Indian launches, while encouraging India to re sume the practice of launching satellites on other states’ space launch vehicles.

Given the frequent reports of Russian cryogenic rockets being used in the Surya, the United States should work with Russia to ensure that Russian space cooperation with India does not undercut U.S. restraint.

Because there is no meaningful distinc tion between India’s civilian and military rocket programs, the United States should explicitly or de facto place ISRO back on the “entities” list of destinations that require export licenses.[23]

In addition, Congress should insist that the administration explain its red lines regarding space cooperation with India. If these lines are not drawn tightly enough, Congress should intervene.

3) Review carefully any cooperation with India’s satellite programs.

India is reportedly developing multiple nuclear warheads for its ballistic missiles. If India develops an ICBM, the next step will be to develop countermeasures to penetrate U.S. missile defenses. Certain satellite technologies can help India with both of these developments.

The United States should review its satellite cooperation to ensure that it does not aid India inappropriately in the technologies of dispensing or orienting spacecraft, of automated deployment of structures in space, or of other operations that would materially contribute to mul tiple warheads or countermeasures against missile defenses.

4) Stop using cooperation in dangerous technologies as diplomatic baubles.

India is the current example of a broader, dysfunctional tendency in bilateral relations to display trust and friendship by opening up the most dangerous forms of cooperation. The United States should not fall further into this trap with India or with any other state.

India needs many other forms of eco nomic and military cooperation more than it needs nuclear and space technology. If India insists on focusing technology co operation in these areas, the United States should interpret that it as a red flag.

The U.S. removal of technology sanctions imposed after India’s 1998 nuclear tests was an adequate and perhaps exces sive display of friendship. Further tech nology cooperation should be limited to areas that do not contribute to nuclear weapons or their means of delivery.


A primary target of an Indian ICBM would be the United States. The technology of an Indian ICBM would be that of a space launch vehicle, either directly via the PSLV or indirectly via the Agni, which is based on India’s SLV-3. The United States should not facilitate the acquisition or improve ment of that technology directly or indirectly. In this matter, U.S. clarity and restraint are what the world and India need.

The United States needs to divert from the present glide path and reorient itself and India onto a more produc tive course of cooperation. It would be a cruel irony if, in the hope of becoming strategic partners, we became each other’s strategic targets.


U.S. Missile Nonproliferation Policy and India’s Path to an ICBM Capability

Richard Speier

The path to India’s ICBM capability has spanned more than four decades and is largely based on space-launch vehicle technology obtained from foreign sources. The United States has taken measures over the last several decades to restrict missile proliferation, but the policies took effect only after India’s missile program had begun. Moreover, U.S. nonproliferation policy has also not been consistently applied, particularly in India’s case. Indeed, the relationship between space launch vehicles and missile proliferation seems to have been obscured.


NASA trains Indian scientists at Wallops Island, Virginia, in sounding rockets and provides Nike-Apache sounding rockets to India.[1] France, the United Kingdom, and the Soviet Union also supply sounding rockets.[2]


A. P. J. Abdul Kalam, an Indian engineer, works at Wallops Island, where the Scout space-launch vehicle (an adaptation of Minuteman ICBM solid-fuel rocket technology) is flown.[3]


Following Kalam’s return to India, the Indian Atomic Energy Commission requests U.S. assistance with the Scout, and NASA provides unclassified reports.[4]


U.S. firms supply equipment for the Solid Propellant Space Booster Plant at Sriharikota.[5]


Kalam becomes head of the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), in charge of developing space launch vehicles. During the same time period, the United States begins to consider a broad policy against missile proliferation.

May 1974

India conducts a “peaceful nuclear explosion.”


The United States and its six economic sum mit partners secretly negotiate the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR). After one and a half years of difficult negotiations on the question of space launch vehicles, all partners agree that they must be treated as restrictively as ballistic missiles because their hardware, technology, and production facilities are interchangeable. The MTCR is informally implemented in 1985 and is publicly announced in 1987.

July 1980

India launches its first satellite with the SLV-3 rocket, a close copy of the NASA Scout.[6]

February 1982

Kalam becomes head of the Defense Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), in charge of adapting space-launch vehicle technology to ballistic missiles.

May 1989

India launches its first Agni “technology dem onstrator” surface-to-surface missile. The Agni’s first stage is essentially the first stage of the SLV-3. Later, the Agni becomes a family of three short- to intermediate-range ballistic missiles.[7]



The United States enacts a sanctions law against missile proliferation. Two weeks later, the Soviet Union agrees to supply India with cryogenic upper-stage rockets and technology, and the two parties become the first countries sanctioned under the new U.S. law.[8]


The United States lifts sanctions on Russia after Moscow agrees to limit the transfer to a small number of rocket engines and not production technology.[9]


India launches the Polar Space Launch Ve hicle (PSLV). Stages 1 and 3 are 2.8-meter-diameter solid-fuel rockets. Stages 2 and 4 are liquid-fuel Vikas engines derived from 1980s French technology transfers.

The earliest reported date for when the Surya ICBM program, using PSLV technology, is said to have been officially authorized. However, India’s space and missile en gineers, if not the “official” Indian government, had opened the option much earlier.

May 1998

India tests nuclear weapons after decades of protesting that its nuclear program was exclu sively peaceful. The United States imposes broad sanctions on nuclear- and missile/space-related transfers.

April 1999

India launches the Agni II, an extended range missile that tests re-entry vehicle “technology [that] can be integrated with the PSLV programme to create an ICBM” according to a defense ministry official.[10]

Kalam quoted in Jane’s Defence Weekly that he wants to “neutralise” the “stranglehold” some nations have through the MTCR, which had tried but failed to “throttle” India’s missile program. “I would like to devalue missiles by selling the technology to many nations and break their stranglehold.”[11]

May 1999

Defense News cites DRDO officials as stating that the Surya is under development.[12]

November 1999

India ’s minister of state for defense (and former head of DRDO), Bachi Singh Rawat, says India is developing an ICBM known as Surya that would “have a range of up to” 5,000 kilometers. A little more than two weeks later, Rawat is reportedly stripped of his portfolio because of his disclosure.[13]


April 2001

Khrunichev State Space Science and Pro duction Center announces that it will supply five more cryogenic upper stages to India within the next three years.[14]

September 2001

The United States lifts many of the technology sanctions it imposed in 1998. Subsequently, Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee visits the United States amid agreement to broaden the technology dialogue.

December 2001

A U.S. National Intelligence Estimate states, “ India could convert its polar space launch vehicle into an ICBM within a year or two of a decision to do so.”[15]

July 2002

Kalam becomes president of India.

September 2002

The United States tells India it will not object to India launching foreign satellites as long as they do not contain U.S.-origin components.[16]

April 2003

The last mention of India as a proliferator or a supplier to proliferators is made in the director of central intelligence’s unclassified semi-annual report to Congress on the acquisition of weapons of mass destruction.[17]

January 2004

President George W. Bush agrees to expand cooperation with India in “civilian space programs” but not explicitly to cooperate with space launches. This measure is part of a bilateral initiative dubbed “Next Steps in Strategic Partnership.”[18]

October 2004

A Russian Academy of Sciences deputy direc tor reportedly states that India is planning to increase the range of the Agni missile to 5,000 kilometers and to design the Surya ICBM with a range of 8,000-12,000 kilometers.[19]

July 2005

Bush agrees to cooperate with India on “satellite navigation and launch,” and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh agrees to “adherence to Missile Technology Control Regime...guidelines.”[20]

August 2005

According to Indian Ministry of Defense sources, there are plans to use the nonc ryogenic Vikas stage for the Surya and to have the missile deliver a 2.5-3.5-metric-ton payload with two or three warheads with explosive yields of 15-20 kilotons.[21]



1. Sundara Vadlamudi, “Indo-U.S. Space Cooperation: Poised for Take-Off?” The Nonproliferation Review, Vol. 12, No. 1, March 2005, p. 203.

2. Gary Milhollin, “ India’s Missiles: With a Little Help From Our Friends,” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, November 1989.

3. Ibid.

4. Ibid.

5. Vadlamudi, “Indo-U.S. Space Cooperation.”

6. Alexander Pikayev et al., “ Russia, the U.S., and the Missile Technology Control Regime,” Adelphi Paper No. 317, International Institute for Strategic Studies, March 1998.

7. Robert Norris and Hans Kristensen, “ India’s Nuclear Forces, 2005,” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Sep tember/October 2005.

8. Pikayev et al., “ Russia, the U.S., and the Missile Technology Control Regime.”

9. Ibid.

10. V. G. Jaideep, “ India Building ICBM With 8,000-Plus Km Range,” Asian Age, February 8, 1999, pp. 1-2; Barbara Opall-Rome, “Agni Test Undercuts U.S., Angers China,” Defense News, April 26, 1999, p. 17.

11. Agni IRBM Built to Carry Nuclear Warhead,” Jane’s Defence Weekly, April 28, 1999.

12. Vivek Raghuvanshi, “ India to Develop Extensive Nuclear Missile Arsenal,” Defense News, May 24, 1999, p. 14.

13. Canadian Security Intelligence Service, “Ballistic Missile Proliferation,” Report No. 2000/09, March 23, 2001; Iftikhar Gilani, “Premature Disclosure of ICBM Project, Rawat Stripped of Defence Portfolio,” Daily Times, November 23, 1999.

14. “Khrunichev Space Center to Supply Rocket Boosters to India,” Interfax, April 16, 2001.

15. “Foreign Missile Developments and the Ballistic Missile Threat Through 2015,” December 2001.

16. . Raja Mohan, “ U.S. Gives Space to ISRO,” Hindu , September 30, 2002, p. 11.

17. Director of Central Intelligence, “Unclassified Re port to Congress on the Acquisition of Technology Relat ing to Weapons of Mass Destruction and Advanced Conventional Munitions, 1 January Through 30 June 2002,” April 2003.

18. Office of the Press Secretary, The White House, “Next Steps in Strategic Partnership With India,” Janu ary 12, 2004.

19. Moscow Agentstvo Voyennykh Novostey, November 1, 2004 (internet news service in English).

20. Office of the Press Secretary, The White House, “Joint Statement Between President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh,” July 18, 2005.

21. N. Madhuprasad, “Boost to Indian Armed Forces’ Deterrence Arsenal; India to Develop Intercontinental Ballistic Missile,” Bangalore Deccan Herald, August 25, 2005.


Richard Speier is a private consultant on nonproliferation and counterproliferation issues. Speier spent more than 25 years in government at the Office of Management and Budget, the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, and the Office of the Secretary of Defense. While in government, he helped negotiate the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR). This article is based on a paper published by the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center.


1. Glenn Kessler and Peter Slevin, “ Washington Post Reporters Interview Powell,” The Washington Post, October 3, 2003.

2. Office of the Press Secretary, The White House, “Joint Statement Between President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh,” July 18, 2005.

3. For early reports, see Maurice Eisenstein, “Third World Missiles and Nuclear Proliferation,” The Washington Quarterly, Summer 1982; “Liquid Fuel Engine Tested for PSLV,” Hindustan Times, December 13, 1985, p. 1; “Growing Local Opposition to India’s Proposed National Test Range at Baliapal, Orissa,” English Language Press, October 1986; “India Faces Rising Pressure for Arms Race With Pakistan,” Christian Science Monitor, March 9, 1987, p. 1. The latest detailed report, appearing less than six-weeks after the presidents’ joint statement is N. Madhuprasad, “Boost to Indian Armed Forces’ Deterrence Arsenal; India to Develop Intercontinental Ballistic Missile,” Bangalore Deccan Herald, August 25, 2005.

4. Vivek Raghuvanshi, “Indian Scientists Poised to Test-Launch Country’s First ICBM,” Defense News, April 30, 2001, p. 26.

5. International missile nomenclature defines an ICBM as a ballistic missile with a range of 5,500 or greater. However, Indian officials have sometimes exaggerated missiles’ capabilities by bumping missiles into the next range-class.

6. Gary Milhollin, “ India’s Missiles—With a Little Help From Our Friends,” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, November 1989; Sundara Vadlamudi, “Indo-U.S. Space Cooperation: Poised for Take-Off?” The Nonproliferation Review, Vol. 12, No. 1, March 2005, p. 203.

7. See Arun Vishwakarma, “Agni-Strategic Ballistic Missile,” April 15, 2005. The report states that India is taking a different ICBM approach: developing a 1.8-meter-diameter, solid-fuel rocket that will extend the Agni to intercontinental range and that could be the basis for a longer-range ICBM. The 1.8-meter-diameter rocket represents a combination of PSLV and Agni technology. Such a lighter ICBM makes far more military sense than a PSLV-sized missile. The lighter ICBM might be mobile and able to survive a first strike. However, Vishwakarma consistently reports far higher ranges for the existing Agni missiles than have been reported elsewhere. Given this reporting bias, Vishwakarma may be describing the wish lists of Indian engineers or programs that have not yet been funded. The PSLV exists, and the existence of a 1.8-meter-diameter missile has not yet been reported except by Vishwakarma. The impending test of the Agni-3 may reveal whether a 1.8-meter-diameter rocket stage, which could make possible a mobile ICBM, has been developed. See “Missile Plan,” Bangalore Deccan Herald, November 26, 2005; Rajiv Nayan, “Agni Three Missile: Sino-Centric?” Bangalore Deccan Herald, December 12, 2005; Sayan Majumdar, “Defense Developments for 2006,” New Delhi India Defence Consultants, January 13, 2006.

8. Moscow Agentstvo Voyennykh Novostey, November 1, 2004 (internet news service); Vishwarkarma, “Agni-Strategic Ballistic Missile.” It is possible that either or both of these references have conflated the Surya-1 with the Agni program.

9. John Wilson, “ India’s Missile Might,” The Pioneer, July 13, 1997, p. 1.

10. Brahma Chellaney, “Value of Power,” The Hindustan Times, May 19, 1999.

11. See Richard Speier et al., Nonproliferation Sanctions (Rand Corporation, 2001).

12. For an official Indian history of relations as of 2002, see

13. Barbara Opall-Rome and Vivek Raghuvanshi, “India’s Balancing Act,” Defense News, September 15, 2003, p. 1; Sultan Shahin, “India Sticks With Iran, for Now,” Asia Times, September 20, 2003; Patricia Nunan, “U.S. Signals Concern About India-Iran Pipeline Project,” VOA, March 17, 2005; Vivek Raghuvanshi, “India, U.S. to Boost Tech Flow,” Defense News, December 12, 2005.

14. Those sanctioned, according to the Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms Control, include Bharat Electronics Ltd., Dr. C. Surendar, Dr. Y.S.R. Prasad, NEC Engineers, the Nuclear Power Corporation of India, Projects and Development India Ltd., Rallis India, and Transpek Industry Ltd.

15. “ Iran’s Ballistic Missiles: Upgrades Underway,” IISS Strategic Comments, November 2003; Opall-Rome and Raghuvanshi, “ India’s Balancing Act.”

16. John Larkin, “India Bets on Nuclear Future: Backing Probe of Iran Draws Closer Look at New Delhi’s Ambitions,” The Wall Street Journal, November 4, 2005; Somini Sengupta, “Nuclear Deal and Iran Complicate Efforts by U.S. and India to Improve Ties,” The New York Times, January 23, 2006; Jo Johnson and Caroline Daniel, “New Delhi Faces a Diplomatic Balancing Act Ahead of Bush’s State Visit,” Financial Times, January 26, 2006; “India’s Left Parties Demand Recall of U.S. Envoy,” Agence France Press, January 30, 2006.

17. Nicholas Kralev, “Firm Helping Arms Program Sanctioned,” Washington Times, February 20, 2003; “Indian Police Arrest Man for Alleged Export of Chemicals to Iraq,” Agence France Presse, October 18, 2003.

18. “DRDO Plan to Export Missiles,” The Hindu, November 21, 2005.

19. Robert D. Blackwill, “The India Imperative,” The National Interest, Summer 2005, pp. 9-15.

20. Israel has already stepped into the breach to contract for an October 2006 Indian launch of an Israeli radar imaging satellite. See Barbara Opall-Rome and K. S. Jayaraman, “India to Launch Israeli Spy Sat,” Defense News, November 14, 2005, p. 1; “India to Launch Israeli Military Imaging Radar Satellite,” Aviation Week & Space Technology, November 21, 2005, p. 17.

21. Mir Ayoob Ali Khan, “Agni-III to Get Light Motor for Bigger Bombs,” The Asian Age, Oc tober 14, 2005.

22. “Report of the Select Committee on U.S. National Security and Military/Commercial Concerns with the People’s Republic of China,” 105th Cong., 1st sess., 1999, H. Rep. 851.

23. Bureau of Export Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce, “Control Policy: End-User and End-Use Based,” Regulation Part 744. ISRO was removed from the “entities” list under a U.S.-Indian agreement signed on September 17, 2004.

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