On Thursday, India successfully test-launched a long-range missile that would give the South Asian country the ability to send a missile as far as China’s capital Beijing for the first time, according to officials.
Officials and defence experts said the Agni-V missile demonstrates a major boost in India’s nuclear-deterrent capability and was clearly targeted at defending against China. It also brings India into the small club of countries with intercontinental nuclear weapons capabilities. The Agni-V has a range of over 5,000 km and is capable of delivering a 1.5 metric ton warhead.
India has a “no-first-use” policy that allows it to use nuclear weapons only if attacked, and defence experts said the Agni-V would help make the threat of “massive retaliation” more credible. Although China’s nuclear-missile capability is still greater than India’s, experts said the new missile would help redress the imbalance.
Sino-India relations have remained mutually suspicious since the two countries fought a short border war in 1962. Despite growing trade, both countries contest large amounts of territory along their Himalayan border.
India’s test-launch comes just shortly after North Korea’s failed satellite launch. However India is unlikely to face the kind of international condemnation that was directed at the communist nation.
On Wednesday, NATO said it did not see India as a threat, while the US State Department said India has a sound non-proliferation record and urged all nuclear states to show restraint. Shashank Joshi of the Royal United Services Institute in London said “the degree to which the acceptance of this is a statement about US-India relations.”
Report: India tests missile capable of reaching Beijing (Washington Post, 19 April 2012)
Test-launch hailed as great achievement in India
India’s Defence Minister, AK Antony, commended India’s Defence Research Development Organisation, which designed and built the missile. He praised the “immaculate success of the Agni-V as a major milestone” of India’s missile programme.
Report: Mixed views over missile success (Sydney Morning Herald, 20 April 2012)
China’s official response cautious, but media more strident
China's foreign ministry reacted in measured tones to the successful test-launch. Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin said on Thursday, “China and India are both big emerging economies. We are not rivals, but partners…Both should cherish this peaceful situation and increase strategic cooperation to safeguard regional peace and stability.”
But the Global Times, the Chinese tabloid known for being more nationalistic, was less conciliatory. In spite of its calls for peaceful relations, it said that India “should not overestimate its strength. Even if it has missiles that could reach most parts of China, that does not mean it will gain anything from being arrogant during disputes with China.”
The media outlet further warned India not to “overstate the value of its Western allies and the profits it could gain from participating in a containment of China,” and chided the West for choosing “to overlook India's disregard of nuclear and missile control treaties”.
Report: Missile test puts China in range (China Daily, 20 April 2012)
Report: India being swept up by missile delusion (Global Times, 19 April 2012)