- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 17, 2012

First North Korea, now India. The government in New Delhi announced Tuesday that it will test a long-range, nuclear-capable missile this week.

The Agni-5, named for the Hindu god of fire, has a range of more than 3,000 miles, and the test-firing could take place as early as Tuesday night, military officials said.

The rocket’s range will give India a deterrent against regional rival China, analysts said.

“The Indians already have a credible deterrent against the Pakistanis,” said Tim Brown of Globalsecurity.org, a Virginia-based think tank, referring to New Delhi’s existing arsenal of short- and medium-range missiles.

If the test is successful and the Agni-5 can be deployed, India would have “the ability to deter China by holding at risk the major Chinese cities,” said Mr. Brown.

“The ultimate aim is to deter China,” he said.

The three-stage, solid-fuel rocket will be launched from a test range on Wheeler Island off the coast of Odisha, the Hindu newspaper reported.

U.S. officials believe the Agni missile series is capable of carrying a nuclear warhead and India is estimated to have up to 100 nuclear weapons, built using plutonium.

India says it has a “no first use” policy with regard to nuclear weapons.

The test is part of India’s efforts to build a triad of nuclear weapons, including missiles, bombers and submarines, said Poornima Subramaniam, Asia-Pacific armed forces analyst for IHS Jane’s.

North Korea tested a long-range rocket Friday, but it crashed into the sea shortly after its launch.