- •Contact us
- •About us
- •Advertise with the FT
- •Terms & conditions
© The Financial Times Ltd 2013 FT and 'Financial Times' are trademarks of The Financial Times Ltd.
Last updated: April 19, 2012 9:42 pm
India successfully tested its longest-range missile for the first time on Thursday, firing a nuclear capable weapon with a range that would allow it to strike major Chinese cities including Beijing and Shanghai.
The firing of Agni V, which has a range of 5,000km, comes as India’s policy makers weigh the future threat of China, seen by New Delhi as a rising military rival in the region.
“The launch of [the] Agni V sends a clear message to Beijing,” said Uday Bhaskar, a former Indian navy commodore who is now a security analyst based in New Delhi. He added that India’s goal remained neutralising the threat coming from China.
While some of China’s more nationalistic newspapers were angry about the launch, Beijing’s foreign ministry refrained from criticism. “India and China are not economic rivals but co-operative partners,” said Liu Weimin, foreign ministry spokesman, when asked about the Agni V. “We believe the two countries should cherish the hard-won momentum of sound bilateral relations, promote bilateral friendship and co-operation, and make active contributions to regional peace and security.”
VK Saraswat, scientific adviser to India’s defence minister, said that with the launch of the Agni, which means fire in Hindi, India had emerged as an important military power.
“We have joined a select group of countries possessing technology to design, develop, build and manufacture long-range missiles of this class and technological complexity,” he said.
With Thursday’s test, India has become only the sixth country in the world to deploy an intercontinental missile capable of travelling more than 5,000km. The US, China, Russia, the UK and France – the five permanent members of the UN Security Council – are the only other countries with such a capability, according to the International Institute for Strategic Studies.
India has become one of the fastest growing arms buyers in the world, following a decade of sustained economic growth. It plans to boost military spending by 13 per cent this fiscal year to about $38bn, according to government data. In contrast, China’s defence expenditure is budgeted to rise to $110bn in 2012.
New Delhi is making a range of military hardware purchases, including a new multi-role jet fighter strike force worth as much as $20bn. The aim is to overhaul its defence equipment as part of an effort to counter threats from China and its nuclear-armed neighbour Pakistan.
India fought a war with China in 1962 over a disputed border in the Himalaya. Since then, relations have improved but New Delhi still fears a possible Chinese incursion into the north-eastern Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh.
Meanwhile, greater tension is building between the two countries over China’s growing influence in Pakistan, which Beijing supplies with military equipment that could be used against India.
In Washington, the White House did not appear too concerned by India’s missile launch, in sharp contrast to its immediate condemnation of North Korea’s long-range rocket test the week before.
“We urge all nuclear-capable states to exercise restraint regarding nuclear and missile capabilities and continue to discourage actions that might destabilise the south Asia region,” Jay Carney, the US president’s spokesman, said on Thursday.
The White House considers India, the world’s biggest democracy, an important ally in Asia but views North Korea as a rogue state.
Mr Carney sought to draw a contrast between the two countries. “India’s record stands in stark contrast to that of North Korea, which has been subject to numerous sanctions as you know, by the United Nations Security Council,” he said.
Additional reporting Leslie Hook in Beijing and Anna Fifield in Washington
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2013. You may share using our article tools.
Please don't cut articles from FT.com and redistribute by email or post to the web.