India to test nuclear-capable missile that could hit Beijing
Weapon is latest stage of military buildup to counter perceived threat from China
India is to test-launch a new nuclear-capable missile that for the first time would give it the capability of hitting the major Chinese cities of Beijing and Shanghai.
The Agni-V missile, with a range of 5,000km (3,100 miles), will thrust the emerging Asian power into an elite club of nations with intercontinental nuclear defence capabilities and challenge China’s regional dominance.
A launch had been scheduled for Wednesday night, but was deferred because of poor weather conditions.
Currently only the permanent members of the UN Security Council – China, France, Russia, the US and Britain – have such long-range weapons.
“It will be a quantum leap in India’s strategic capability,” said Ravi Gupta, spokesman for India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation, which built the missile.
The longest-range missile that India possesses at present, the Agni-III, has a range of only 3,500km and falls short of many major Chinese cities.
India and China fought a war in 1962 and continue to nurse a border dispute. India has also been suspicious of Beijing’s efforts to increase its influence in the Indian Ocean in recent years.
“While China doesn’t really consider India any kind of a threat or any kind of a rival, India definitely doesn’t think in the same way,” said Rahul Bedi, a defence analyst in New Delhi.
India already has the capability of hitting anywhere inside archrival Pakistan, but has engaged in a splurge of defence spending in recent years to counter the perceived Chinese threat.
Pictured:A schematic of India’s Agni V long-range missile. Photograph: Reuters