Why NATO wants India to join its BMD Programme?

Introduction to Ballistic Missiles

Before we deal this topic, we need to understand – Why Ballistic Missiles are dangerous? The term ballistic means that part or most of the missile’s trajectory is not subject to propulsion or control. In its ballistic phase of flight, a missile’s motion is affected only by gravitation and uncontrolled aerodynamic interactions with the atmosphere. In simple words, the Ballistic Missiles are simple and NOT engine powered all the way as the Cruise Missiles. The Cruise Missiles fly to their targets like the robotic airplanes.


This means that the important phase of a Ballistic missile launch is its initial rocket propulsion, guiding its velocity vector to a prescribed orientation at the position and time of rocket engine shutoff or burnout, and a warhead. Once it is done, the ballistic missile follows an elliptical path due to action of the Earth’s gravitational field. If both the burnout velocity and burnout altitude are large, then an upwardly slanted flight path will cause the missile’s trajectory to rise high above the sensible atmosphere, thereby eliminating the retarding and disturbing influences of the Earth’s atmosphere for most of the trajectory.


The component which lofts the payload into the upper atmosphere or into space (the booster) is one of the major components of the Ballistic Missiles. Due to the high altitude, low impact of atmospheric friction etc. Ballistic missiles traverse distance rapidly; a long-range ballistic missile can travel to the other side of the world in 30 minutes. Because they give so little advance warning and deliver small, fast-moving payloads that may contain nuclear weapons capable of destroying entire cities. This is the reason that ballistic weapons are highly destructive and difficult to defend against.

The flight of the Ballistic Missile has three parts viz. powered flight portion, the free-flight portion which constitutes most of the flight time, and the re-entry phase where the missile re-enters the Earth’s atmosphere. The powered flight portion can last from a few tens of seconds to several minutes and can consist of multiple rocket stages. Once, the missile is placed in the space, no more thrust is provided, the missile enters free-flight. Now, if the missile is launched into a high sub-orbital spaceflight, it would be able to cover the large distances. This height is approximately 1200 kilometers in case of the intercontinental missiles (ICBM). The re-entry stage begins at an altitude where atmospheric drag plays a significant part in missile trajectory, and lasts until missile impact. So, we can say that Ballistic Missiles can reach from anywhere to anywhere on earth.

Recently, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) invited India to become a partner in its missile defence programme. The backdrop of this development is that both NATO and India face similar ballistic missile threats. But the thing is that India is NOT a member of the Missile Technology Control Regime. Even the Missile Technology Control Regime has not been able to prevent the missile programmes of other countries such as China, Pakistan, Iran, North Korea etc.

Missile Technology Control Regime was established in April 1987 by Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Great Britain, and the United States. The MTCR was created in order to curb the spread of unmanned delivery systems for nuclear weapons, specifically delivery systems that could carry a minimum payload of 500 kg a minimum of 300 km. It has 34 members right now and most of these countries belong to the northern and southern parts of the two hemispheres. In November 2010 visit of US president Barack Obama, it was said that US supports India’s bid for permanent membership to UN Security Council as well as India’s entry to Nuclear Suppliers Group, Wassenaar Arrangement, Australia Group and Missile Technology Control Regime.

In the same month, at the Lisbon summit, NATO had adopted its new strategic concept called “Active Engagement, Modern Defence“. It outlined the Alliance’s approach to emerging security challenges. The document underscored the commitment to defend NATO members’ populations and territories against ballistic missile threats. Missile defence is critical to realising this commitment.

Now, the latest proposal is being looked at with some surprise. We should note that in 2004, United States had declared that it intends to pursue its plans to deploy the first phase of ballistic missile defence. At that time, India was one of the few nations who extended support to the new security architecture being proposed by the US. Previously India has also supported the US proposals for cuts in nuclear arsenal and building missile defence as a significant and far-reaching effort to move away from the adversarial legacy of the Cold War.

However, up till now, India has taken a solo route to develop its own missile defense architecture. It was said that India going to be soon become capable of intercepting 2,000-km range ballistic missiles. But some of the reasons which we can figure out for the latest proposal are as follows:

  • China continues to target its missiles against India as well as growing instability in Pakistan, the importance of missile defence will continue to grow for India.
  • The strategic Position of India is very important for Balance of Power in the region.
  • Indian has taken missile defence seriously and for this it would need collaboration with high-technology front.
  • Russia has been one of the strongest opponents of NATO missile defence programme for Europe, however, NATO is working with Russia to dispel its misgivings and has formed the Nato-Russia Council, which meets every month and briefs Russia about the missile defence project.
  • Indian technological contributions, and joint collaboration could help produce better BMD systems for both NATO and India—and that echoes the NATO official’s statement.

India’s Scientific Adviser to the Defence Minister to V.K. Saraswat has said that NATO’s invitation to India to be a partner in its ballistic missile defence (BMD) programme is being studied. it’s worth note that India has so far conducted 6 interceptor missile tests as part of its mission to set up a trustworthy shield against ballistic missiles. Of these, 5 interceptor tests, including the first 3 in a row, were successful. Now, DRDO busy with maiden launch of Agni-V ballistic missile in December. DRDO is the author of India’s BMD programme and the programme’s architect is Dr. Saraswat, DRDO Director-General.