India successfully completed on Thursday 19th a test flight of the Agni V, a long-range intercontinental ballistic missile. The missile hit its target in the Indian Ocean in 20 minutes. "It has met all the mission objectives," SP Dash, director of the test range, told Reuters, "It hit the target with very good accuracy."
The launch was originally scheduled for this Wednesday but was delayed due to bad weather and heavy lightning.
The locally developed Agni V, “fire” in Hindu and Sanskrit, is able to carry a nuclear weapon and with its range of 5.000 km can reach targets in China and Iran. The missile cost more than 2.5bn rupees ($480m, £307m) to develop and is one of the country’s most sophisticated weapons.
Currently only China, Russia, the US, the UK, and France have such land-based, long-range missiles. Israel is thought to possess them.
The Agni missile programme, started in the 1960s, saw the first important step in 2010 with the testing of the Agni II, an intermediate-range ballistic missile, with a range of 2000 km. The programme’s goal is to strengthen India's nuclear deterrence power, once it fully operative in 2014-15.
China's Global Times newspaper said in an editorial published before the launch that "India should not overestimate its strength" and that the western countries chose “to overlook India's disregard of nuclear and missile control treaties”. India insists that its nuclear weapons programme is for deterrence only.
The non-proliferation treaty for nuclear nations was never signed by India as it enjoys a de facto legitimacy for its arsenal thanks to a landmark deal with the U.S., reached in 2008.
The US State Department says India's non-proliferation record is "solid" while NATO says it doesn’t consider India a threat.
Indian Prime Minister Singh congratulated the scientists for the "successful launch" of the missile saying "Today's launch represents another milestone in our quest for our security, preparedness and to explore the frontiers of science". Similar tests of the missile will be carried on in the next year and the construction of a nuclear submarine, to increase counter strikes ability, is closed to be completed.