The treaty had loopholes that have now come to haunt
America and Russia.
The INF treaty was a bilateral agreement between
Washington and Moscow.
It left the other nuclear weapon powers free to
develop ground-based intermediate range forces.
In the age of nuclear superpowers, it did not seem to
Since then, many countries have developed missiles in
the range of 500 to 5,500 km, including India, Pakistan and North Korea.
China has dramatically expanded its missile arsenal in
the last three decades.
According to American officials, nearly 90 per cent of
China’s vast missile armoury estimated at around 2,000 rockets.
It is in the intermediate range and would be illegal
if Beijing were to be a part of the INF treaty.
The US cites Russian violations of the INF treaty as
the immediate cause for the withdrawal, coping with China’s massive rocket
force appears to be the more important reason for the decision.
Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton, has
long argued that even without the alleged Russian violations.
The INF treaty was a bad idea since it left China and
North Korea free to undermine the security of the US and its allies in Asia.
The expansive Chinese land-based intermediate range
missile forces threaten the American naval ships deployed in the Western
Pacific and target US military bases in Japan.
The vulnerability of American military presence in the
Pacific to Chinese missiles, in turn, undermines the credibility of American
security commitment to its Asian allies.
China has already rejected the proposition. It has
always refused to join the US-Russian arms control agreements.
India too will have little interest in joining a
treaty that would take away its current nuclear deterrent in the form of
medium-range Agni missiles.
India’s problem is less with the arms control
diplomacy than the nature of its missile programme.
While it has no reason to shed tears for the INF
treaty, it will have to seriously examine the implications of the next steps
by the major powers.
If the US deploys a new INF in Asia, to enhance its
capacity to deter China, Beijing is bound to react.
The focus of a potential new arms race appears to be
less on traditional nuclear armed missiles, but precise hypersonic missiles
(which travel at least five times the speed of sound) equipped with
Moscow and Beijing have already invested in the
development of hypersonic systems.
India too has an effort underway on hypersonic
missiles part indigenous and part in collaboration with Russia to build on
the supersonic Brahmos missiles that travel more than twice as fast as
As the US conflict with Russia deepens, Delhi’s
partnership with Moscow on advanced military systems will come under
increasing scrutiny and pressure.
The recent controversy over the acquisition of S-400
from Russia is just the beginning of a trend.
Russia’s tightening military embrace with China also
casts a shadow over defence ties between Delhi and Moscow.