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India Tests Missile Capable of Carrying Nuclear Warhead to Beijing


India has successfully test-launched a ballistic missile capable of carrying nuclear warheads across much of Asia and the Middle East. VOA's Steve Herman reports from New Delhi that officials say this latest test significantly expands India's nuclear reach.

India's defense ministry says the second attempt to launch an Agni Three missile went off with "textbook precision" Thursday morning from an island off the east coast.

Most of India's existing arsenal is designed to counter its neighbor and archrival, Pakistan. But experts say the Agni Three, with a range of more than 3,000 kilometers, would be able to carry a 300-kiloton nuclear warhead all the way to Beijing, or to the Middle East.

However, the former head of India's Institute for Defense Studies and Analyses, Uday Bhaskar, downplays concerns that the launch should be seen as a new offensive threat.

"Today's test should not be seen as anti-China. All these countries, whether it is China or Pakistan or, for that matter, Iran, are aware of the current Indian profile that ensures that countries are able to accommodate each other's strategic anxieties and aspirations," said Bhaskar.

India began developing the third-generation missile at a time when relations with Beijing were much cooler than they are today.

A previous Agni Three test launch last July ended in failure when the second stage did not separate, and the missile fell into the Bay of Bengal.

The Ministry of Defense issued a statement after the latest launch saying India had "matured in the missile technology area" and is now "at par with many other developed countries."

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