India joins the long range missile club with successful launch

India launched a missile with a range of 3100 miles, capable of reaching most major cities in China and parts of Europe.

The head of the missile development program announced that India "is now a missile power."


India staged a successful test launch today of a nuclear-capable missile that can reach key Chinese cities, adding a new calculation to the region's complex web of rivalries and giving it a new level of deterrence against regional powerhouse China.

The Agni-V missile can travel 3,100 miles, putting Beijing and Shanghai within India's range. Government officials hailed the launch as "proof that the country has taken its place among the world's most powerful and scientifically advanced nations," although there are a number of tests left to complete before the missile can come into military use, the Associated Press reports.

China already has missiles in its arsenal that can reach anywhere in India, while the longest-range missile in use in India (the Agni-III) can travel only 2,100 miles - not far enough to reach most major Chinese cities, according to AP.

"At the moment there is a huge assymetry in China's favor," said C. Uday Bhaskar, the former head of the Institute of Defense Studies and Analyses. After it adds the missile to its arsenal, however, "India's deterrent profile in the region would be appropriately burnished."

India has long been able to reach any part of archrival Pakistan with its missiles, but in recent years it has also become concerned about a possible Chinese threat and began seeking weapons that could deter China as well, AP reports.

The Agni-V can carry a 1.5-ton nuclear warhead and can be transported by road or rail. It will take four or five more tests before officials feel confident enough to add it to India's weapons store, likely sometime in 2014 or 2015, according to AP. Only France, Russia, China, the US, and possibly Israel have similar technology.

India and China went to war back in 1962 so the notion that they see China as something of an enemy isn't surprising. But the recent economic success of both nations has them competing for many of the same markets and resources. That aspect of the relationship may lead to friction elsewhere, although India has historically been non-interventionist.

It's always better to have deterrence against an attack than the alternative. India, as an emerging power, saw the need for insurance and the policy they bought is an effective one.