First nuclear-capable ICBM test successful
INDIA on Thursday successfully tested its first nuclear-capable intercontinental ballistic missile, joining a select group of countries that possess such technology.
The Agni-V with a range of more than 5,000 kilometres was launched from a military base off the eastern state of Odisha and hit a target in the southern Indian Ocean, said the state-run Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), which built the missile.
“The Agni missile test has been a 100-per-cent success.
The nation’s dream has become a reality,” DRDO spokesman Ravi Gupta said by telephone from the test range. “All mission objectives and operational targets have been met.” “The ships located in mid-range and at the target point have tracked the vehicle (missile) and witnessed the final event,” he added.
With the successful test, India has become the sixth nation to possess intercontinental missiles. The others are the five permanent members of the UN Security Council: the United States, Russia, China, France and Britain.
“India is today a nation with proven capability to design, develop and produce a long-range ballistic missile,” DRDO chief VK Saraswat said, according to the IANS news agency.
“India is a missile power now.” Prime Minister Manmohan Singh congratulated the scientists for the “successful launch” of the missile.
“Today’s launch represents another milestone in our quest for our security, preparedness and to explore the frontiers of science,” he said.
The Agni series of missiles, a key part of India’s deterrent programme aimed largely at regional rivals Pakistan and China, had a maximum range of 3,500 kilometres before Thursday’s test.
The Agni I missile has a range of 750 kilometres, while the Agni-II can cover over 2,000 kilometres and are said to be able to contain potential threats from Pakistan. Since 2007, India has also successfully testfired the Agni-III and IV, with a range of up to 3,500 kilometres.
The successful test of the Agni-V is said to be significant because the missile could theoretically reach all of China and bring its strategic cities within strike range for the first time.
The range of the Agni-V also covers parts of Europe, Africa, the Middle East and South-East Asia. Both China and Pakistan have nuclear-capable missiles.
Indian officials have stressed that the missile is not country-specific and has been designed to meet threat-perceptions based on assessments by defence forces. “The missile is purely for deterrence and to prevent a war,” Saraswat said.
A spokesman for China’s Foreign Ministry, Liu Weimin, reacted cautiously to the test and stressed the improving bilateral ties.
“China and India are both emerging developing countries.
We are not competitors but cooperative partners,” he said.
Agni (a Hindi word for fire) is among India’s most sophisticated missile systems.
The Agni-V is a threestage, all solid-fuel powered 17-metre tall missile and can carry a nuclear warhead weighing over 1 tone.
It was built at the cost of around 485 million dollars, according to the DRDO.
The missile took about 20 minutes to hit its target in the Indian Ocean.
It would take another four to five successful tests before the Agni-V, now India’s most powerful missile, is made available to the armed forces, possibly between 2014 and 2015.
The launch has not drawn the kind of criticism that was directed at North Korea, which last week carried out an unsuccessful rocket launch.
India, the world’s largest democracy, proclaims a nofirst- strike policy and says its missile programme is solely for defensive purposes.
“We do not consider India a threat to NATO Allies or NATO territory,” NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said ahead of the test on Wednesday.
On Thursday morning, British Foreign Secretary William Hague, who was taking part in NATO talks in Brussels, declined to give a definitive reaction.
“Well, of course in all of these things it is important for countries to abide by all the rules we have agreed, but I don’t want to give any sharp reaction to that,” he said.