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India to test long-range ballistic missile
Publication Date : 18-04-2012
India will test fire its Inter-Continental Ballistic Missile capable of striking targets in China, all of the Middle East and parts of Europe
India will shortly test fire its locally developed Inter-Continental Ballistic Missile (ICBM), capable of striking targets deep inside China, all of the Middle East and parts of Europe.
A successful maiden flight would make India the sixth country after the nuclear weapon states of Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States with indigenous ICBM capability.
It would also bolster the Indian military's morale at a time when it is increasingly nervous about the infrastructure China is building along its borders and what New Delhi calls "aggressive patrolling" by Chinese troops.
"Agni V will provide India with much-needed dissuasive deterrence against China which it presently lacks," said retired Brigadier Arun Sahgal, joint director at the Institute of National Security Studies in New Delhi.
Officials from the state-owned Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), responsible for developing Agni V, said it could be launched over the "next few days".
If that and subsequent tests are successful, it could be inducted into service by 2014 or 2015.
The nuclear-capable Agni (Fire) V has a strike range of over 5,000km. It is 17.5m tall, weighs 50 tonnes, carries a 1.5-tonne warhead, and is likely to be launched off India's east coast, official sources said.
According to estimates by the Federation of American Scientists in February last year, India has 80 to 100 nuclear warheads.
India's ballistic missile programme is an offshoot of its commercial space programme established in 1969.
Eventually, DRDO officials said, each Agni V will be capable of carrying three to 10 separate nuclear warheads.
Each of these could be assigned to a different target separated by long distances, but officials said this feature remained under development.
India went to war with China in 1962, and came off badly, over the unresolved 4,057km border that remains one of the world's longest running frontier disputes.
New Delhi says it is Beijing's belligerence and burgeoning nuclear arsenal that prompted India to conduct multiple underground atomic tests in 1998.
India claims China illegally occupies 38,000 sq km of its territory in the Himalayas bordering Tibet while Beijing periodically asserts ownership over 126,000 sq km of land encompassing Arunachal Pradesh province in the north-east, a claim New Delhi rejects as "non-negotiable".
India is also worried about China's long-range, nuclear-capable missiles deployed across Tibet, Kunming and Chengdu.
These are capable of striking major Indian cities including New Delhi.
India is spending between US$80 billion and $100 billion in its military modernisation drive by the end of 2022, as it replaces its ageing Soviet and Russian weaponry.
It is readying itself to meet the five-year operational directive issued by Defence Minister A. K. Antony's to all three services to prepare for a "two-front war" with neighbouring rivals China and Pakistan.
The two are military and nuclear allies, who often gang up against India, officials said.
As tensions between Beijing and New Delhi have worsened in recent months, India is in the midst of acquiring combat aircraft, mid-air tankers refuellers, warships, submarines, troop ships and two aircraft carriers.