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India tests missile that can reach China (+video)

The successful test launch of India's Agni-V missile means that India now has a long-range missile that can reach China's population centers, giving it a new level of deterrence.

By Staff writer / April 19, 2012

This photo, released by Indian Ministry of Defense, shows India’s Agni-V missile, with a range of 3,100 miles, being launched from Wheeler Island off India's east coast, April 19. India announced Thursday that it had successfully test launched a new nuclear-capable missile that would give it, for the first time, the capability of striking the major Chinese cities of Beijing and Shanghai.

Indian Ministry of Defense/AP

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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.

The successful test was hailed with excitement and triumph in India. V. K. Saraswat, the director general of India's Defense Research and Development Organization, said, "This launch has given a message to the entire world that India has the capability to design, develop, build and manufacture missiles of this class, and we are today, a missile power," The Times of India reports.

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