India test-launches missile able to reach China
Published Thursday, April 19, 2012 9:43PM EDT
India launched a powerful new missile Thursday capable of carrying a nuclear warhead to China's capital city, yet there was barely a whisper worldwide mere days after North Korea was harshly criticized for its failed rocket launch.
"Most countries were silent . . . the U.S. sort of hesitantly endorsed India's launch by saying India has a very solid, non-proliferation record and it poses no global threat," CTV South Asia Bureau Chief Janis Mackey Frayer reported Thursday.
"What is certainly an American concern may be a wider global concern with containing China's regional dominance," she told CTV's New Channel from New Delhi.
The United States put India under sanctions for about a quarter-century after it tested its first nuclear bomb in 1974.
Since then, the Asian giant has battled for acceptance of its nuclear program while fighting wars with arch-rival Pakistan and sabre rattling with its other neighbour, China.
The U.S. lifted sanctions about 10 years ago and in 2008 signed a landmark deal with India to allow civilian nuclear trade that effectively accepted the country as a nuclear power.
The testing of the Agni-V missile Thursday takes India another step closer to its aspiration of becoming a regional and world power.
But does that put the country on a collision course with China?
The two countries have been bitter rivals since they fought a war in 1962.
"I think what we see are two countries that are both seen as emerging powers in what appears to be a missile race," Mackey Frayer said.
While most analysts doubt there is a wider Asian arms race underway, both China and India have increased defence spending, she said.
China is still by far the leader in missile technology with rockets capable of distances of 12,000 kilometres compared with the Agni-V's range of 5,000 kilometres, Mackey Frayer said.
"What they've done today is not righted the balance so to speak, but more so narrowed the gap," she said.
The new missile will still require a battery of tests and need to clear bureaucratic hurdles before being added to India's arsenal in a few years.
"The nation stands tall today," Defence Minister A.K. Antony said, according to the Press Trust of India.
Unlike North Korea that tied its launch to a space program, India was clear from the start that it was testing a nuclear-capable missile that could reach major Chinese cities such as Beijing.
The government hailed it as a success, releasing video showing the Agni-V taking off from a small launcher on what appeared to be railroad tracks at 8:07 a.m. from Wheeler Island off India's east coast.
It rose on a pillar of flame, trailing billows of smoke behind, before arcing through the sky.
The missile hit an altitude of more than 600 kilometres, its three stages worked properly and its payload was deployed as planned, the head of India's Defence Research and Development Organization, Vijay Saraswat, told Times Now news channel.
"India has emerged from this launch as a major missile power," he said.
India had joined the small club of nations able to develop and build long-range ballistic missiles, he said.
Yet officials said the new missile test should not be seen as a threat because India has a no-first-use policy and its missiles were used only for deterrence.
China refused to discuss the launch, with its Foreign Ministry only stating the two countries should work together as strategic partners and "grasp opportunities to further develop relations."
Rival Pakistan is already within India's missile range and merely stated it was given advance notice of the launch as part of an agreement.
"Pakistan, also having nuclear weapons, also building a system of deterrence, say that they already have long-range missiles that are in development . . . whether we see a tit-for-tat in this race remains to be seen," Mackey Frayer said.