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India Tests Long-Range Nuclear-Capable Missile


India has tested a sophisticated, long-range nuclear-capable missile that dramatically boosts the range of targets it could hit.

Defense officials say the new Agni-3 missile was test-fired Sunday from an island in the eastern state of Orissa. The word Agni means "fire" in Hindi.

The missile, which can carry a nuclear warhead, has a range of 3,000 kilometers. Officials, who did not want to be named, said the test was successful.

Uday Bhaskar, deputy head of the government-funded Institute of Defense Studies, says the Agni-3 will boost India's strategic capability.

"The Agni test of today would serve to establish India's credibility, in terms of its missile systems," he said. "So, to the extent that India is working toward a credible, minimum deterrent… I would interpret today's test as enhancing the credibility of India's delivery systems."

India conducted nuclear tests in 1998, and has since carried out a series of missile tests to fine-tune its delivery systems for nuclear weapons.

Its existing arsenal includes several short-range and medium-range missiles, capable of carrying both nuclear and conventional warheads. Many of the existing missiles can target Pakistani cities, while the Agni-3 will be able to hit targets deep inside China.

Since becoming independent in 1947, India has fought wars with Pakistan and China. But India's relations have warmed with Beijing in recent years, and tensions with Pakistan have abated, since they began a peace process two years ago.

Defense analysts say the Angi-3 tests should not be seen as "country-specific," but as part of India's overall defense capability.

The Agni-3 missile test comes just days after North Korea sparked an international outcry by test-firing seven missiles.

Bhaskar says he does not expect India's tests will provoke similar concern.

"It is important to see the characteristics we associate with countries, both in terms of the regional context and the global grid, so I would like to think that India's missile test would not be seen through the same filter as any other country," he noted.

Analysts say New Delhi has established itself as what they call a "responsible" nuclear power that has no track record of proliferating nuclear technology.

North Korea is considered a so-called "rogue nation" by the United States, and its nuclear and missile proliferation postures have been a source of concern for the wider international community.

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