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Trump’s Own “Star Wars” The 2019 US BMD Review and What It Augurs for India?

A. Vinod Kumar was Associate Fellow at Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, New Delhi. Click here for detailed profile.
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  • IDSA Occasional Paper No. 56

    The Ballistic Missile Defence Review (BMDR) of the US Department of Defence is a one-of-its-kind document that provides a multi-dimensional picture on the American BMD programme, its technological trajectory as well as the vision of the incumbent administration on the role of missile defences in its national security strategy and architecture. The first BMDR of 2010 had spelt out the Obama administration’s ‘austere’ approach towards ongoing projects by emphasizing on financial viability and technological feasibility. In contrast, the Trump administration’s BMDR, released in early 2019 as the second of the series, can be described as the most proactive BMD plan since SDI days with fillip given to areas like directed-energy, addressing gaps in boost-phase interception and harnessing the space frontier. Trump’s BMDR also enhances the strategic role of BMD by pushing for greater jointness and offence-defence integration through their operational synchrony with offensive forces. This Occasional Paper dissects the BMDR threadbare and analyses its significance for global missile defence dynamics, particularly for India, which has notable mention in the Review. In doing so, the Volume devotes considerable space to trace the course of India-US dialogue on BMD, and the proposed partnership that failed to take off. Using a hitherto unexplored cache of US State Department cables, the Volume reconstructs the anatomy of these interactions and tries to ascertain what the Review augurs for India and its BMD programme.

    About the Authors

    A Vinod Kumar is Associate Fellow at IDSA and a Visiting Faculty at the Institute of Foreign Policy Studies (IFPS), University of Calcutta. His research interests include nuclear policy issues, missile defence and India’s relations with the great powers. Kumar has authored two books: India and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation RegimeThe Perennial Outlier (Cambridge University Press, 2014) and A Shield Against the Bomb: Ballistic Missile Defence in a Nuclear Environment (a short-form monograph published by Vij Books in 2019). Alongside his ongoing study on BMD and nuclear deterrence, Kumar is also engaged in archival mining to trace India’s foreign policy history.

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