Agni-V, India’s intercontinental ballistic missile with a nuclear warhead, will not be part of the Republic Day celebrations on Sunday which will have the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as chief guest.
Japan, the only country to have suffered an atom bomb, is extremely sensitive to display of nuclear weapons. With India negotiating a civilian nuclear cooperation agreement with Japan, it would have touched a raw nerve among the Japanese people and the political class. Abe is keen to conclude the deal with India, despite stiff resistance from anti-nuclear lobbies in Japan.
While government sources said that the Japanese side did not raise the issue through diplomatic channels, Defence Ministry confirmed that Agni-V was not being displayed. The Defence ministry’s reasoning was that it has been displayed last year and they are not going to repeat it. This time they are displaying Arihant nuclear submarine at the parade.
The fact that this issue was bothering the Japanese was reflected in the media briefing when a prominent Japanese journalist based in New Delhi asked MEA officials whether display of weapons, including Agni-V and other nuclear-capable weapons, would not arouse “some kind of bad feelings” in Abe’s presence.
To this, Joint Secretary (East Asia), Gautam Bambawale said, “Let me put it this way that the Republic Day Parade of India is a military-cum-civilian parade. So, it is not purely a military parade, it is also a civilian parade, it also shows off the social and cultural aspects of India.”