NEW DELHI — India hopes this week to join the select group of countries with intercontinental missiles by holding the first test flight of a new long-range nuclear-capable rocket, officials said April 16.
The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has scheduled a maiden launch of the Agni-V missile, which has a range of more than 5,000 kilometers (3,100 miles), between April 18 and April 20.
The exact launch date is flexible “because this is our longest-range missile and there are many logistics issues, and hence, we don’t plan for one day,” said DRDO spokesman Ravi Gupta.
In the latest display of India's growing military might, the test of the indigenously developed Agni-V will be carried out from a coastal range in the eastern state of Orissa.
"Agni-V is a 5,000-plus-kilometer-range missile and it is to meet our present-day threat perceptions, which are determined by our defense forces and other agencies," Gupta said from the test site.
The Agni-V would, in theory, be able to strike targets across Asia and some parts of Europe. Only China, Russia, France, the U.S., Great Britain and Israel are thought to have such long-distance missiles.
The weapons system was not developed to threaten any particular country, Gupta said.
"This is a deterrent to avoid wars, and it is not country-specific," he said. "Besides, India has a no-first-use policy," he said, calling the country’s missile development program "purely defensive."
The planned launch comes four months after India successfully tested the Agni-IV missile, which is capable of traveling 3,500 kilometers.
India is among the world's top 10 military spenders.
India has fought three wars with arch-rival Pakistan since independence in 1947, but China is now viewed as the main focus of India's military concerns.
The border between India and China has been the subject of inconclusive diplomatic talks since the 1980s after the two nations fought a brief, bloody war in 1962.
Indian military analyst Afsir Karim said since the country already has potential to strike China with the Agni-IV, the utility of the latest missile was unclear.
"I do not see any strategic value in developing this system except for upgrading India's military prestige," said Karim, a retired army lieutenant-general.
India conducted a string of atomic detonations in 1998 and declared itself a nuclear-weapons state but it refuses to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
The test plan has not attracted the international criticism aimed at reclusive North Korea, which last week carried out a rocket test that ended in failure.