India tests long-range ballistic missile as tensions with China persist

Diplomatic relations between the neighbouring nuclear-armed nations have been frosty since 2020

A long-range ballistic Agni-V missile during a Republic Day parade in New Delhi in 2013. AP
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India carried out night trials of an intercontinental nuclear-capable ballistic missile during heightened tensions with China after rival troops clashed at a remote an unmarked de-facto border.

The tests of the Agni-V nuclear-capable ballistic missile — which that can hit targets more than 5,400km distant — were conducted from Abdul Kalam Island, off the coast of eastern Odisha overnight on Thursday, to validate new technologies and equipment on the missile, the government said.

“India successfully test fires Agni-V intercontinental nuclear-capable ballistic missile … the missile will add great value to the defence and strengthen national security to a greater extent as it can travel 5,400-plus kilometres,” said Pralhad Joshi, a union minister.

A 'fire-and-forget' missile

The Agni-V is a nuclear-capable intercontinental ballistic missile known as a fire-and-forget missile, which cannot be stopped without an interceptor missile. It has a maximum throw weight of 1,650kg.

It is regarded as a strategic missile because of its range, and is believed capable of reaching almost all of the Chinese mainland.

China says the missile has a range of 8,000km and accused India of underplaying its capabilities to avoid tensions.

It raised concerns last year regarding the launch of an Agni-V intercontinental ballistic missile, citing a resolution of the UN Security Council. The resolution was issued after India's 1998 nuclear tests.

Indo-China tensions

The test comes as tensions are running high between India and China — both nuclear-armed nations — after about 300 Chinese troops tried to enter the Yangtze region in Arunachal Pradesh in remote north-east India on December 9.

Soldiers from both sides fought with sticks and canes, with some suffering “minor injuries”, India’s Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said.

India and China share a nearly 4,000km undemarcated border known as Line of Actual Control and the diplomatic relations between the neighbouring nations have een frosty since 2020 when the rival armies attacked each other with iron rods and clubs in Ladakh’s Galwan Valley.

India said 20 of its soldiers were killed in the latest clashes, while Beijing claimed four of its troops had died.

India’s Air Force is also conducting a two-day command-level exercise on Friday in the east of the country.

While the exercise was planned in advance, it will include participation of fighter jets, transport aircraft, helicopters and unmanned aerial vehicles to test Air Force capabilities on the China front.

Updated: December 16, 2022, 9:08 AM