India tests nuclear-capable ICBM
Monday’s missile was fired from a canister on mobile launcher — features that help protect the missile and allows for quick deployment and firing — from an island off the coast of the eastern Indian state of Odisha.
The launch comes at a time when global concerns about nuclear proliferation have been on the rise, specifically with the election of Donald Trump as the next US President and recent comments by Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Putin said last week that he would seek to enhance his country’s nuclear capabilities.
Trump responded on Twitter, saying “the United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes,” Trump wrote.
The two countries have more than 14,000 nuclear warheads between them.
India has somewhere between 100 to 120 nuclear warheads, according to the Federation of American Scientists — more than North Korea, but less than China and a similar amount as Pakistan.
Specifically, the development is likely most worrying for China — with a range of more than 5,000 kilometers (more than 3,100 miles) the Agni-V is India’s longest-range and puts Beijing within striking distance.
Pakistan, India’s historical adversary, was already in range before the Agni-V, according to IHS Jane’s, a military analysis company.
Before the Agni-V and its predecessor, India’s longest-range missile could barely reach mainland China, says Ajai Shukla, a former Indian army colonel and a columnist at India’s Business Standard.
Shukla says the new missiles — which are expected to be put into service in 2017, according to Jane’s — will be “the backbone of India’s China-specific nuclear deterrent.”
“In restructuring the nuclear order, many Indian analysts believe the Agni-V may induce a more stable relationship with Beijing, although for a truly effective deterrent, they believe that India will have to further develop both its conventional armed forces and possibly a second-strike capability,” Jane’s says.
Nuclear war between the two is unlikely — both maintain nuclear doctrines that mandate “No First Use” — says Shukla.
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