NEW DELHI: India tested a ballistic missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead yesterday, drawing immediate condemnation from Pakistan and stoking simmering tensions between the neighbours.
The missile, a variant of the Agni I, was test-fired at a remote coastal range in the eastern state of Orissa witnessed by Defence Minister George Fernandes, spokesman P.K. Bandopadhyay said.
It is India's first intermediate-range missile and has a range of about 800km. It can be launched from rail and road missile launchers, giving it high mobility.
Pakistan, which also has nuclear weapons, said the test demonstrated India’s “war-mongering” mindset.
“Pakistan is above such war-mongering psyche,” said its Information Minister, Sheikh Rashid Ahmed.
“At the same time we are not oblivious to our defence requirements.”
India said Islamabad had been informed about the “routine” test.
“Our view is that this is part of our routine integrated guided missile programme,” Bandopadhyay said.
“It is a routine test and takes place each year around this time. It has nothing to do with war-mongering. It has no correlation with the present situation.”
The test comes as the world is facing a crisis regarding possible weapons of mass destruction held by Iraq and North Korea.
The United States is preparing for a possible invasion of Iraq once UN inspectors report later this month on whether Baghdad is complying with UN disarmament resolutions.
There are also tensions between Washington and Pyongyang over the breakdown of an agreement under which North Korea had frozen its nuclear programme in exchange for energy supplies.
International concern has been growing over the frequent missile tests by India and Pakistan.
Even before the latest test was carried out, Canadian Foreign Minister Bill Graham expressed “deep concern” over India’s intention and urged it to cancel the tests.
“Canada deeply regrets that India is once again planning to test nuclear-capable ballistic missiles, particularly at a time when tensions with Pakistan remain high,” Graham said in a statement. – AFP