India yesterday announced the successful test launch of a new nuclear-capable missile that would give it the ability to strike the major Chinese cities of Beijing and Shanghai, a significant step forward in its aspirations to become a regional and world power.
The Agni-V missile, with a range of 5,000km, still requires a battery of tests and must clear other bureaucratic hurdles before it can be inducted into India’s arsenal in a few years. However, officials hailed the launch as proof that India has taken its place among the world’s most powerful and scientifically advanced nations.
“The nation stands tall today,” Indian Defense Minister A.K. Antony said, according to the Press Trust of India.
China is far ahead of India in the missile race, with intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of reaching anywhere in India. Currently, the longest-range Indian missile, the Agni-III, has a range of 3,500km, which falls short of many major Chinese cities.
“At the moment there is a huge assymetry in China’s favor,” said C. Uday Bhaskar, former head of the Institute of Defense Studies and Analyses.
After it adds the missile to its arsenal, however, “India’s deterrent profile in the region would be appropriately burnished,” he said.
Video released by the government showed the Agni-V taking off from a small launcher on what appeared to be railroad tracks at 8:07am from Wheeler Island off India’s east coast. It rose on a pillar of flame, trailing billows of smoke behind, before arcing through the sky.
The missile hit an altitude of more than 600km, its three stages worked properly and its payload was deployed as planned, Defense Research and Development Organization head Vijay Saraswat told the Times Now news channel.
“India has emerged from this launch as a major missile power,” he said.
The missile will need four or five more trials before it can be inducted into India’s arsenal at some point in 2014 or 2015, Indian officials said.
Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Liu Weimin (劉為民) declined to discuss the launch at a regular news conference yesterday, saying only that India and China should work together as strategic partners.
However, a state TV report on the launch enumerated the missile’s shortcomings and a Chinese newspaper warned India not to get arrogant and overestimate its strength.
“India should be clear that China’s nuclear power is stronger and more reliable. For the foreseeable future, India would stand no chance in an overall arms race with China,” said an editorial in the Global Times, which is published by the Chinese Communist Party’s official mouthpiece the People’s Daily.
China also said yesterday that upcoming joint war games with Russia were not organized in response to India’s successful ballistic missile launch and were instead aimed at upholding regional peace.
According to the Chinese defense ministry, the two neighbors will hold joint naval exercises in the Yellow Sea off the coast of the eastern port city of Qingdao from Sunday to Friday next week.
“This joint military exercise is a long scheduled one between China and Russia in order to uphold regional peace and stability,” Liu told reporters.