India will be testing its latest Agni-V intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) today, which reportedly is capable of targeting locations as distant as northern China.
In its final test, the Agni-V missile will be tested from Wheeler Island in the eastern Indian state of Odisha. After this, the Strategic Forces Command will begin its trial. The ICBM will be tested for its full range and this will be the fourth and the final test of the nuclear-capable missile. The first two tests were conducted in “an open configuration” in April 2012 and September 2013, followed by the third test which was conducted on January 31 in 2015, which was done in “a deliverable configuration”. With initiation of the Agni-V missile, India will join the exclusive club of countries. This club comprises of countries with ICBM missiles with a range of over 5,000-5,500 km, putting India with the likes of the US, Russia, China, France and the UK.
The nuclear capable Agni-V comes from a range of ICBMs in India and at present is the most advanced form in the Agni series of indigenously-built missiles. The earlier missiles in the series, as well as other missiles such as Prithvi and Dhanush had been capable of reaching and targeting Pakistan mostly. These missiles have come forth post the Integrated Guided Missile Development Programme (IGMDP) initiative commenced in the 1960s. Agni’s earlier versions have been taken in by the armed force and can reach anywhere in Pakistan and parts of western China.
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The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has been in charge of developing the missiles. It had announced a glitch earlier this year but is now set to launch the missile. India also recently became a signatory to the 34-nation Missile Technology Control Regime and a civil nuclear cooperation agreement with Japan.
Indo-China relations under scanner
India has been emphasising on defence and security partnerships with large investments in defence machinery and weapons from Russia and agreements of sharing military bases with the US. After the earlier test of Agni V, Liu Weimin, a spokesman for China’s Foreign Ministry, had said that his country was not threatened by the test. “China and India are large developing nations. We are not competitors but partners. We believe that both sides should cherish the hard-won good state of affairs at present, and work hard to uphold friendly strategic co-operation to promote joint development and make positive contributions towards maintaining peace and stability in the region,” said Weimin.
India and Chinese foreign policy have shared a long and complex history with tensions around border disputes on one hand and a strong socio-economic relation on the other. India’s increasingly close relations with the US on the military front may not have left China extremely pleased but it is not clear whether the possession of Agni-V is likely to impact relations, even as the missile will put China directly under threat from India. With India finally participating in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Energy Club from this year, however, new avenues of cooperation on security remain to be explored between the two neighbours.