India announced the successful test launch Thursday of a new nuclear-capable missile that would give it the ability to strike the major Chinese cities of Beijing and Shanghai for the first time, a significant step forward in its aspirations to become a regional and world power.
The Agni-V missile, with a range of 5,000 kilometers (3,100 miles), still requires a battery of tests and must clear other bureaucratic hurdles before it can be inducted into India’s arsenal in a few years. But officials hailed the launch as proof the country has taken its place among the world’s most powerful and scientifically advanced nations.
Watch: The Agni V Inter-Continental Ballistic Missile launch
India successfully test-fired the surface-to-surface Agni V Inter-Continental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) capable of covering entire China and reaching deep into Europe.
The missile hit an altitude of more than 600 kilometers (370 miles), its three stages worked properly and its payload was deployed as planned, the head of India’s Defense Research and Development Organization, Vijay Saraswat, told Times Now news channel.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Weimin declined to discuss the launch at a regular news conference Thursday, saying only that India and China should work together as strategic partners.
But a state TV report on the launch enumerated the missile’s shortcomings and a Chinese newspaper warned India not to get arrogant and overestimate its strength.
It also warned India not to work with Western allies to try to contain China.
The Agni-V is a solid-fuel, three-stage missile designed to carry a 1.5-ton nuclear warhead. It stands 17.5 meters (57 feet) tall, has a launch weight of 50 tons and was built mainly with Indian-made technology at a reported cost of 25 billion rupees ($486 million). It can be moved across the country by road or rail and can be used to carry multiple warheads or to launch satellites into orbit.
The missile will need four or five more trials before it can be inducted into India’s arsenal at some point in 2014 or 2015, Indian officials said.