Thursday, April 19, 2012

India Launches Long-Range Missile Capable of Reaching China

Well, so much for nuclear non-proliferation during the Obama administration.

At the Wall Street Journal, "India Tests Nuclear-Capable Missile":
India tested its most advanced long-range nuclear-capable missile to date on Thursday, a launch experts say will serve as a deterrent against Pakistan and China.

Agni V, an intercontinental ballistic missile, or ICBM, was launched from Wheeler Island, off the coast of the eastern state of Orissa, said Sitanshu Kar, a spokesman for India's defense ministry.

"It was a perfect launch which took place at 0807 hours," said Mr. Kar. "It has achieved all the parameters and goals set for it." He didn't elaborate, but Indian media is saying it reached its intended target 5,000 kilometers (3,100 miles) out in the Indian Ocean, and was visually tracked along its whole path.

Avinash Chander, chief controller (Missiles and Strategic Systems) of the Ministry of Defence's Defence Research and Development Organisation, described the launch as a "marvelous achievement" in an interview on news channel NDTV. "We achieved exactly what we wanted to achieve." He said the team has "full confidence in the missile capability" and the missile landed "exactly where it was supposed to land. "

The launch of the locally built Agni V is part of India's broader missile-development program, a key aspect of the country's nuclear strategy. Its range of over 5,000 kilometers means it could reach as far as Beijing, Tehran or Pyongyang.

Experts say this makes it the most advanced missile in India's missile inventory. But though a successful test fire is a positive sign, it could take a few more years of tests to make the ballistic missile operationally ready.

Poornima Subramaniam, an Asia-Pacific armed-forces analyst with IHS Jane's, a global think tank specializing in security issues, said by email that Agni V would boost India's strategic position against China while improving its deterrence system against its other regional rival, Pakistan.

"The Agni V can strike targets across the depth of China, potentially freeing up other short- and intermediate-range missiles for use against Pakistan and much of west and south-central China," she added. "While India maintains a no-first-use policy, it views this road-mobile ICBM capability as technologically narrowing the missile gap between India and China."