India on Thursday successfully carried out the night trials of the Agni-V nuclear-capable ballistic missile having a range of over 5,000 km, marking a significant boost to the country’s strategic deterrence, sources in the Defence Ministry said. They further said that the test was carried out to validate new technologies and equipment on the missile which is now lighter than before.
“The trial has proved the capability to enhance the range of the Agni-V missile, if required," news agency ANI quoted sources as saying. Agni-V, which is India’s first inter-continental ballistic missile (ICBM), was under development for more than a decade and today was its ninth flight and a “routine test".
The test-firing of the missile from the Abdul Kalam Island off Odisha coast came amid India’s lingering border row with China.
On November 9, troops of India and China clashed in the Tawang sector of Arunachal Pradesh, resulting in minor injuries to some soldiers on both sides. Ties between both the countries nosedived significantly following the fierce clash in the Galwan Valley in June 2020 that marked the most serious military conflict between the two sides in decades. Both sides gradually enhanced their deployment by rushing in tens of thousands of soldiers and heavy weaponry. Following the eastern Ladakh standoff, the Indian Army significantly bolstered its operational capabilities along the LAC in the eastern theatre.
Here’s all you need to know:
About Agni V Missile
The Agni-V missile has been successfully test-fired, two people familiar with the matter said, however, there is no official word on the test-firing of the missile.
Agni V is capable of hitting a target 5,000 kms away with pinpoint accuracy. This range puts almost the entire country of China within the missile’s range. Though an ICBM requires a missile with a range of at least 5,500 km, India’s closest contender for an ICBM is the Agni 5, which can reach countries on other continents, including parts of Africa and Europe, a report by Indian Express had explained.
The nuclear-capable missile can carry a warhead weighing around 1,500 kg and has a launch weight of 50,000 kg, making it one of the country’s most powerful missiles.
The test firing of the Agni V missile is part of the process for its induction into the tri-services strategic forces command. The people said the test validated a number of critical aspects of the weapon.
Existing variant Agni-IV is capable of hitting targets at a range of 4,000 km while Agni-III has a range of 3,000-km, and Agni-II can fly up to 2,000-km.
In June, India successfully carried out a night launch of the nuclear-capable Agni-4 ballistic missile, in a boost to India’s military capabilities.
India has been steadily enhancing its overall military might in the last couple of years. It has carried out successful tests of a number of missiles during the period.
In May, the extended range version of the BrahMos supersonic cruise missile was test-fired from a Sukhoi fighter jet. It was the first launch of the extended range version of the BrahMos missile from a Su-30MKI aircraft.
An anti-ship version of the BrahMos supersonic cruise missile was successfully test-fired jointly by the Indian Navy and the Andaman and Nicobar Command in April.
WHAT IS A BALLISTIC MISSILE?
According to the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI), India has the “capacity to deploy short-, medium-, and long-range ballistic missiles". It says that the country “views its nuclear weapons and long-range power projection programmes as the key to maintaining strategic stability in the Asia-Pacific region".
It lists the Prithvi-II, Agni-I, Agni-II, Agni-III, and Agni-IV as “India’s fully operational land-based ballistic missiles", noting that the country also has submarine launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs).
Arms Control Association, another US-based organisation, says that ballistic missiles are “powered by rockets initially but then they follow an unpowered, free-falling trajectory towards their targets". It notes that as of December 2017, there were 31 countries that had such missiles with only nine among them known or suspected to possess nuclear capabilities — China, France, India, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia, UK, US.
WHY IS CHINA FUMING?
China habitually uses its position as a permanent member of the UN Security Council (UNSC) to condemn missile tests by India. After reports emerged of plans for another test of the Agni V, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian had earlier said at a press briefing that “maintaining peace, security and stability in South Asia meets the common interests of all, where China hopes that all parities would make constructive efforts".
Touching specifically upon the topic of another missile test, he had referred to the UNSC Resolution 1172 of 1998 — passed in the wake of nuclear tests held by India and Pakistan — which asks the two countries “immediately to stop their nuclear-weapon development programmes, to cease development of ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons and any further production of fissile material for nuclear weapons".
Zhou had also said that “as for whether India can develop ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons, the UNSCR 1172 already has clear stipulations".
China hitting out against Indian weapons development is nothing new and it would have noted that with a range of 5,000-plus kms, Agni V brings most of the Chinese mainland under its range, enhancing its strategic deterrence vis-a-vis Beijing.
(with inputs from PTI)
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