India has successfully test-fired for a second time a nuclear-capable missile that can reach Beijing and much of Europe, bringing a step closer production of a weapon designed to strengthen its nuclear deterrent.
“The test was successful,” Ravi Kumar Gupta, spokesman for the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), said on Sunday.
“It hit the target in a predefined trajectory. It met all the mission objectives.”
A video distributed by the DRDO showed the Agni-V rocket blasting off from a forest clearing on an island off India’s east coast state of Odisha.
The Agni-V is the most advanced version of the indigenously built Agni, or Fire, series, part of a programme that started in the 1960s.
Earlier versions could reach old rival Pakistan and western China.
India is trying to keep up with China’s growing military strength and wants to have a viable deterrent against its larger nuclear-armed neighbour.
The two countries have generally warm relations, but they fought a brief Himalayan war in 1962 and a build up of conventional defences along their disputed border is a source of tension.
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 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.
The Agni-V missile was first tested in April 2012. It is mostly domestically built and has a range of about 5,000km.
Only the UN 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.