China’s views on Agni V mixed; India still falls short of ICBM capability

Soon after India test fired its first long-range ballistic missile with 5,000 km (3,100 miles) range, media was going abuzz that India has reached the ICBM club until experts shouted down that New Delhi is far shorter than the target.

The brouhaha gave Beijing the more matured look when it merely said India and China are not rivals but cooperative partners in the region. In fact, the Agni V missile falls short of an ICBM (inter-continental ballistic missile by 500-km range), whilst way behind China’s superior Dongfeng-31A ICBM that has a range of 11,500 km.

However, China’s spokesman was modest when he said,”We are not rivals but cooperative partners.” Liu Weiman, speaking for the Chinese foreign
affairs ministry, said, “We hope Asian countries can contribute to regional stability and peace.”

But the real wrath came from the Chinese media, especially the state-run Global Times of People’s Daily, which rubbished India’s gigantic step ahead in its missile mission. Though the new missile can reach most parts of China, it “does not mean India will gain anything from being arrogant during disputes with China,” it said. “India should be clear that China’s nuclear power is stronger and more reliable. For the foreseeable future, India would stand no chance in an overall arms race with China”.

Another point that China has raised to its neighbour was that India was moving too close to its Western allies and become a pawn in their hands in containing China in the region.

While China showed no knee-jerk reaction despite the media’s overstated reference to the missile’s deterrence factor in the region, The US State
Department spokesman Mark Toner urged all nuclear states to exercise restraint. “That said, India has a solid non-proliferation record,” he pointed out and quickly added that “(India) They’re engaged with the international community on non-proliferation issues.”

Otherwise, the Agni-V is a solid-fuel, three-stage missile which can carry a 1.5-ton nuclear warhead. It has a launch weight of 50 tons and was built
indegenously at 25 billion rupees ($486 million). India will have to carry out at least four more trials before inducting it into its military arsenal, which officials say would take at least three years. With this missile, India joins the club of the United States, Russia, China, Britain and France.

While Russia has an array of ICBMs with the latest RSM-56 Bulava MIRV-equipped/SS-NX-30 expected to enter service in 2012, US has 450 Minuteman III (LGM-30G) in its active inventory and Trident, Trident II with11,300 km (7,000 miles) range.

The United Kingdom has submarine-based Trident II ICBMs, jointly developed with US assistance. Trident II (D5) SLBM is in the arsenal of the Royal Navy. France too has submarine launched ICBMs M45 in active service. In addition to these powers, Israel is suspected to have developed Jericho ICBMs with an estimated range of 11,000-km range.

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