With global trigger-finger tensions still running on full blast following the recent Syrian near-war episode, the last thing the jittery world needed is yet another "test fire" of a very lethal weapon, yet that is precisely what it got just after 8:40 am on Sunday when India test fired a nuclear-capable missile, with a range of 5,000 km, capable of reaching Beijing and Europe, bringing it a step closer to production of a nuclear deterrence agent.
Agni-V is about 2,500 km short of being called an Inter-Continental Ballistic Missile (ICBM), as the world recognised range for an ICBM is over 7,500 km. Agni-V would also carry MIRV (multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicles) payloads being concurrently developed. A single MIRVed missile can deliver multiple warheads at different targets.
Why is India doing this now is unclear, although it has been suggested that India is merely trying to keep up with China's growth military strength and "wants to have a viable deterrent against its larger nuclear-armed neighbor." It is also a move targeting the rapidly growing nuclear arsenal of Pakistan, which has been increasing its inventory of nuclear warheads and developing short-range, tactical nuclear weapons, raising concern about an escalating South Asian arms race, the International Institute for Strategic Studies said on Thursday. The think-tank said in a report the race with Pakistan was increasing the risk of a nuclear exchange during a conventional conflict, perhaps sparked by an act of terrorism. Or a false flag act perhaps?
"The test was successful," said Ravi Kumar Gupta, spokesman for the Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO). "It hit the target in a predefined trajectory. It met all the mission objectives"
[India and China] have generally warm relations, but they fought a brief Himalayan war in 1962 and a buildup of conventional defenses along their disputed border is a source of tension.
The Agni-V is the most advanced version of the indigenously built Agni, or Fire, series, part of a program that started in the 1960s. Earlier versions could reach old rival Pakistan and western China.
Nuclear-armed Pakistan is increasing its arsenal of nuclear warheads and developing short-range, tactical nuclear weapons, raising concern about an escalating South Asian arms race, the International Institute for Strategic Studies said on Thursday.
The Agni-V missile was first tested in April 2012. It is mostly domestically built and has a range of about 5,000 km (3,100 miles). Only the U.N. Security Council permanent members - China, France, Russia the United States and Britain - along with Israel, are believed to have such long-range weapons.
Gupta said India was now ready to start a process of production and subsequent induction of the missile.
A summary of the missile's capabilities:
The video evidence: