The deployment of BrahMos missile: opposite of peace

By Saima Ali

The deployment of BrahMos missile is bound to increase the competitiveness and rivalry in the China–India relations and will have a negative impact on the stability of the region. The BrahMos is a new game piece in India’s tense relationship with China. China claims parts of Arunachal Pradesh as its own and both sides have contesting claims on the Line of Actual Control (LAC), which is the de facto border between the two countries. China has warned India that increasing troop s presence and move to deploy BrahMos cruise missiles in Arunachal Pradesh can escalate tensions on the border.

Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has strongly reacted against this move of India. India deploying supersonic missiles on the border has exceeded its own needs for self-defense and poses a serious threat to China’s Tibet and Yunnan provinces. Military buildups along the Sino-Indian border have increased recently as last month India deployed nearly 100 tanks to the Ladakh region. In reaction, Beijing cautioned of possible economic consequences.

The BrahMos cruise missile is stealthy, fast and extremely difficult to shoot down. The BrahMos is a supersonic cruise missile which can be launched from submarines, ships, aircraft or land. It can carry warheads weighing up to 300kg, and strike targets on land and at sea. It has been in service with the army since 2007 and is currently being tested for use by the Air Force’s Sukhoi-30 fighters. It also has become a point of controversy in a complicated web of overlapping alliances between India, China, Russia and potentially Vietnam. Nevertheless Vietnamese Navy isn’t going to match China’s rapidly expanding fleet any time soon. But small Vietnamese ships with BrahMos missiles could pose a major threat to China’s larger military vessel. Therefore, India may attempt to cultivate an alliance with Vietnam in order to counterbalance China.

The supersonic BrahMos cruise missile has dive attack capabilities, and fits in the Sino-Indian border where it’s mostly mountain landscape. BrahMos with “steep div”” capabilities suited to mountain warfare. BrahMos began in the 1990s as a joint project between Russia and India to develop an Indian version of the P-800 Oniks cruise missile. The missile’s name is a portmanteau of the rivers Brahmaputra and Moskva in India and Russia, respectively. Technically speaking, the BrahMos is actually slightly faster at Mach 2.8 than the P-800. It also weighs twice as much as a Tomahawk, at six thousand pounds. The BrahMos isn’t just an antishipping weapon it also can hit ground-based targets, and is ideal for exactitude attacks against fixed installations such as radars, command centers, airbases and enemy missile batteries. It can also potentially carry a 660-pound nuclear warhead, though that doesn’t appear to be its primary projected use.

Cruise missiles are designed to be fired at extended ranges from their targets so as not to expose the launching platform to enemy retaliation. During the Cold War, Russia developed unusual style of cruise missile designed to take out American aircraft carriers. These flew over the speed of sound to better evade the carrier’s defenses, which include air-to-air missiles fired by fighters, surface-to-air missiles and Gatling-cannon Close-in weapon systems, or CIWS. They were also larger to increase the likelihood of achieving a kill in one hit.

The missile’s “penetration capabilities” poses a threat to China’s border regions and therefore can’t hit any of China’s major cities on its east coast while Chinese missiles can certainly strike places like New Delhi with relative ease. Disputes over lightly populated Himalaya mountains shouldn’t constitute a truly substantive conflict of interest between the two countries. Therefore India must focus on promoting peace “rather than the opposite,” China has said about Delhi’s decision to put advanced cruise missiles along the border in Arunachal Pradesh. Chinese Defense Ministry spokesman Wu Qian said “We hope that the Indian side can do more to benefit peace and stability along the border and in the region, rather than the opposite.”

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Saima Ali

Saima Ali is a Research Associate at Strategic Vision Institute and can be reached at

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