Launching itself into an elite club of nations with the capability of hitting targets 5,000 km away, India yesterday successfully tested a long-range nuclear-capable ballistic missile that can reach Beijing and Shanghai in China, and all of Pakistan.
With its launch from Wheeler Island off the Odisha coast at 8.07 am, India also emerged as a major missile powerhouse of the world, having developed Agni-V indigenously over the last four years. The missile, described as “China-killer”, carries a warhead weighing more than a tonne.
Reaction came in swiftly from China, where foreign ministry spokesperson Liu Weimin downplayed the tests, saying, “China and India are both big emerging countries, we are not rivals but co-operation partners.”
However, state-run Global Times was not so cautious and said that India may have missiles that can reach most Chinese territory, but it stands “no chance in an overall arms race”. It added that New Delhi would gain nothing by stirring “further hostility”.
PM Manmohan Singh hailed the successful test as “another milestone" in the country’s “quest for security, preparedness and to explore the frontiers of science”.
At the test site, there was jubilation. “The three-stage Agni-V missile’s entire performance has been successfully demonstrated. All mission objectives and operational targets have been met,” said DRDO Chief VK Saraswat. “India is today a nation with proven capability to design, develop and produce a long-range ballistic missile. India is a missile power now,” an exultant Saraswat added.
During yesterday’s test, the 17.5-metre long, 50-tonne Agni-V reached an altitude of 600 km and attained a velocity of 7,000 metres per second, which enabled the missile to achieve its intended target range. The missile system can be transported by road or rail.
Defence Minister AK Antony spoke to Saraswat and Agni-V Project Director Avinash Chander and congratulated them for “this immaculate success”, defence ministry spokesperson Sitanshu Kar said. Antony also recalled “the untiring contributions” of former DRDO Chief M Natarajan.
The defence ministry had first described Agni-V as an inter-continental ballistic missile (ICBM) in a statement, but soon retracted it and called the missile a long range ballistic missile (LRBM). Agni-V’s range is 500-km short of an ICBM, for which the world standard is 5,500-km range.