New Delhi (AsiaNews/Agencies) – India can extend the range of its nuclear range beyond Asia. The announcement was made by the Indian government's Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) which said that it had the technology to build inter-continental ballistic missiles (ICBM) that could extend nuclear-armed India's reach even beyond Asia. For some India harbours a secret ambition to develop an ICBM that could reach the United States.
“We have achieved the capability to make missiles with a range of 5,500km but the decision to develop an ICBM has to be taken by the political leadership,” DRDO Chief M. Natarajan said.
Last Thursday, the DRDO test-fired the intermediate-range Agni-III missile which has a range of 3,500 km (2,200 miles) and can carry a 1.5-tonne nuclear or conventional payload. This is within striking distance of Beijing and Shanghai.
India’s other long-time rival Pakistan was already vulnerable to India’s Agni-I (700-800 km range) e Agni-II (more than 2,000 km range).
Agni-III project Chief Avinash Chander said that a second test of the intermediate-range missile would take place in August or October.
Referring to Pakistan and China, former DRDO Chief K. Santhanam said that “India does not plan to be a global superpower but in the regional perspective a 3,500-plus-kilometre range IRBM (intermediate-range ballistic missile) is enough to deter adventurism from across our two borders.”
Commenting on the development, official sources said that the test was carried out with the tacit approval of the United States which looks favourably to India’s power as a counterbalance to China.
In Beijing authorities reacted by saying that they hope that a country as important as India would work to maintain and promote peace and stability in the region.
In order to allay any concern, New Delhi said that the new missile was not intended to threaten any country but only to increase its national security.
China and North Korea helped Pakistan develop the Shaheen 2 missile which has a range of more than 2,000 km. The rocket was tested in March 2004 and puts the whole of India within a striking distance.
India started working secretly on nuclear weapons after China conducted its first atomic test in 1964—two years after Beijing fought a brief but bloody border war with its neighbour.
New Delhi detonated its first atom bomb in 1974 and in 1998 declared itself a full-fledged member of the nuclear weapons state club.
For some experts the DRDO's dream—denied in public—remains an ICBM with a 15,000 km range, named ‘Surya’ or Sun, that could strike US cities. (PB)