Shifting Narratives: Unveiling Media Bias Amid Pakistan’s MIRV Triumph and India’s Techno-Nationalism

by Zohaib Altaf and Nimra Javed

On March 11 2024, India announced that it had successfully developed the capability to place multiple warheads on a single intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). This milestone was demonstrated through a successful test of the Agni-V missile, positioning India among the world’s leading nuclear powers. While reporting on the incident, news outlets highlighted India’s achievement but cast doubt on Pakistan’s similar claim regarding MIRV (Multiple Independently Targetable Reentry Vehicle) technology. Despite Pakistan demonstrating its MRVs (Multiple Reentry Vehicle) missile capabilities through two missile experiments, experts cited by news organizations such as CNN have not independently verified Pakistan’s assertion of possessing MIRV technology. However, in the Worldwide Threat Assessment of 2018, Lieutenant General Robert Ashley, Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, acknowledged Pakistan’s advancements in missile technology. He noted,

In January 2017, Pakistan conducted the first test launch of its nuclear-capable Ababeel ballistic missile, which featured South Asia’s first MIRV payload. Furthermore, in early July of the same year, Pakistan demonstrated an expanded-range Nasr CRBM, indicating its continued development of advanced missile capabilities.

Pakistan’s Ababeel Missile

Attribute Details
Origin Pakistan
Possessed by Pakistan
Class Medium-range ballistic missile (MRBM)
Basing Road-mobile
Length Unknown
Diameter 1.7 m (estimated)
Warhead Nuclear, Conventional
Payload Multiple independently targetable reentry vehicle (MIRV)
Propulsion Solid-fuel
Range 2,200 km
Status In development
In Service N/A


The mention of experts questioning Pakistan’s MIRV capability raises the question of whose opinions are more valuable than the Director of the US Defense Intelligence.

Antoine Levesques, a Research Fellow specializing in South and Central Asian Defense, Strategy, and Diplomacy at the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), wrote in his blog that Pakistan’s Ababeel Medium-Range Ballistic Missile (MRBM) is equipped with MIRVs and has the capability to penetrate India’s developing ballistic missile defense systems.

The Ababeel is the first MRBM in South Asia to progress to the testing stage for MIRVs, which enables a single missile to deploy multiple warheads capable of striking distinct targets. Both the US general and the IISS expert acknowledge Pakistan as the first country in South Asia to develop MIRV capability.

However, relying on vague experts to question Pakistan’s ability to develop MIRVs seems to be an attempt to give Indian Prime Minister Modi an opportunity to highlight it as India’s technological breakthrough. This narrative is particularly relevant as the 2024 Indian election approaches, and Modi seeks to bolster his image as a strong leader by showcasing India’s technological advancements.

In the lead-up to the 2019 election, Indian Prime Minister Modi made a significant announcement regarding India’s successful anti-satellite weapons test.

With the 2024 election approaching in a few months, it wouldn’t be surprising if Modi were to unveil another long-awaited capability developed by DRDO. This move could be part of his strategy to showcase India’s technological advancements and bolster his image as a strong leader.

India’s Union Minister Amit Shah also tweeted, “The missile equipped with cutting-edge MIRV technology will further accelerate PM Shri @narendramodi Ji’s vision for a self-reliant Bharat in Defence capabilities.” It clearly signifies that the Modi regime wants to brand acquiring of a 60’s technology, as a great success, and with the election approaching in India, they want to show to the domestic audience that Modi is making India a technological power, standing with international powers such as the US, China, and Russia. Therefore, it is imperative for the Indian government to downplay Pakistan’s success.

So, the technology that Pakistan has tested seven years before India does not align well with the image Modi wants to project with the test, showing that India is advancing in the technological realm and becoming an international power, especially when he is not even the first country in South Asia to conduct this test.

In recent times, India has experienced a significant surge in techno-nationalism within its military strategy. This approach, which seeks technological supremacy and national pride, merges technical achievements with a fervent nationalistic zeal. The rise of Hindu nationalism, especially under the leadership of Narendra Modi, has integrated this ideology more deeply into India’s foreign and defense policies, marking a shift in the core motivations behind India’s military advancements.

For example, Modi announced on August 26 that the point where the Chandrayaan-3 lander touched down on the lunar surface would be named as Shiv Shakti. Moreover, while receiving the first Rafale jet in France, Rajnath Singh performed a traditional ritual, placing lemons under the wheels and a coconut on top, and drawing an “Om” sign on the plane’s edge. He emphasized that these actions were not superstition but a reflection of Indian culture.

This gesture resonates with the ethos of Hindu nationalism promoted by BJP under Modi, which emphasizes that everything is about Hindu nationalism.

The world media instead of supporting Modi’s agenda through casting doubt of Pakistan’s capabilities should question the implications of growing Indian missile program and its link with techno-nationalism.

India boasts an extensive missile arsenal, yet the development of advanced missiles like Agni-V and Agni-VI seems driven more by patriotic sentiment than practical necessity. In a geopolitically sensitive region, such prioritization of showcasing domestic technological feats over pragmatic defense strategies could heighten tensions. This shift has been significantly propelled by the rise of Hindu nationalism under Modi’s administration, aligning with India’s broader goal of asserting itself as a formidable global player. For instance,

the introduction of India’s new 70-ton canisterized missile system, expected to be compatible with Agni-VI, warrants close attention from the international community, especially Western nations. This system marks a substantial stride in India’s strategic capabilities. While the Agni-VI’s global reach is poised to substantially extend India’s strategic influence. India’s strategic objectives are evident, yet the specifics of Agni-VI are kept under wraps, possibly due to concerns over international repercussions.

Recent Indian legal cases, such as State of Maharashtra Vs. Pradeep Kurulkar, have inadvertently exposed sensitive details about defense projects, including the Agni-VI initiative. These revelations confirm the existence and ongoing development of the Agni-VI missile.

The incident where Indian experts threatened to deploy nuclear weapons against Canada illustrates the troubling intersection of India’s military power and nationalist rhetoric. This threat, made during a national television broadcast in response to Canadian concerns over the alleged assassination of a Sikh leader, exemplifies the potential misuse of India’s nuclear and missile capabilities and advanced military technology as instruments of nationalistic propaganda. This episode underscores how India’s recent military achievements can fuel nationalist fervor domestically and exert influence internationally.

The media’s tendency to downplay Pakistan’s MIRV success while emphasizing India’s achievements reflects a bias that aligns with Modi’s nationalistic agenda. This bias not only distorts the narrative around technological advancements in South Asia but also undermines Pakistan’s legitimate achievements in missile technology. It is crucial for media outlets to maintain objectivity and provide accurate reporting to ensure a balanced and informed public discourse.


Zohaib Altaf is Research Officer at Center for International Strategic Studies, AJK

Nimra Javed is Associate Research Officer at Center for International Strategic Studies, AJK


You may also like

Leave a Comment

Stay Connected

Follow and subscribe

Contact CISS AJK

Center for International Strategic Studies AJK, King Abdullah Campus Chatter kalas Muzaffarabad, Azad Jammu and Kashmir