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Terrorism & Security

Beijing responds calmly to India missile test

The Chinese government has underscored its desire for cooperation with India, rather than an arms race.

By Staff writer / April 20, 2012

The Agni-V missile launch test team leaders, from left, R.K. Gupta, Avinash Chander, scientific adviser and Director General Defense Research and Development Organization Vijay Kumar Saraswat and V.G. Sekaran, pose after a press conference in New Delhi, India, Friday.

Manish Swarup/AP

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Chinese media carried both stern and petty responses to India's test launch yesterday of a nuclear-capable missile that could reach Beijing, but official Chinese government responses indicate that China does not want to drive up tensions with India over the launch.

"China and India are both emerging countries, we are not rivals but cooperation partners," said Liu Weimin, China's foreign ministry spokesman, according to CNN. "We believe the two countries should cherish the hard-won momentum of sound bilateral relations, promote bilateral friendship and cooperation, and make active contributions to regional peace and stability."

The Agni-V missile, as it is called, can travel 5,000 kilometers (3,100 miles), which puts both Beijing and Shanghai in range. China is already capable of reaching India with its own missiles.  

The New York Times portrayed the launch as a development in a regional "arms race," headlining its report, "Signs of an Asian Arms Buildup in India's Missile Test."

But the launch seemed to receive only perfunctory mentions in Pakistani media. India has long had missiles capable of reaching any place in Pakistan, so yesterday's demonstration of Indian capabilities did not change the calculus of India-Pakistan relations.

And while an editorial in China's Global Times, a daily newspaper owned by the ruling Communist Party, cautioned India against "being swept up by missile delusion," it also signaled Beijing's desire for regional cooperation.

India should not overestimate its strength. Even if it has missiles that could reach most parts of China, that does not mean it will gain anything from being arrogant during disputes with China. India should be clear that China's nuclear power is stronger and more reliable. For the foreseeable future, India would stand no chance in an overall arms race with China.

India should also not overstate the value of its Western allies and the profits it could gain from participating in a containment of China. If it equates long range strategic missiles with deterrence of China, and stirs up further hostility, it could be sorely mistaken. 

China and India should develop as friendly a relationship as possible. Even if this cannot be achieved, the two should at least tolerate each other and learn to coexist.

Their status as newly emerging countries shows the two should cooperate on the international stage. It would be unwise for China and India to seek a balance of power by developing missiles.   

Zhang Zhaozhong, a professor at the People's Liberation Army National Defense University, told the Global Times that the Agni-V could be enhanced to reach 8,000 kilometers.

Another expert speculated that India already has that capability, but chose not to disclose it. According to India, the Agni-V can travel 5,000 kilometers.

"The Agni-V actually has the potential to reach targets 8,000 kilometers away, but the Indian government had deliberately downplayed the missile's capability in order to avoid causing concern to other countries," Du Wenlong, a researcher at the People's Liberation Army Academy of Military Sciences, told the Global Times.

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