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India Tests Nuclear-Capable Missile - 2003-01-09

India has tested a surface to surface, nuclear-capable missile.

The intermediate range ballistic missile was fired from the Chandipur-on-Sea testing range, in eastern Orissa State. Defense Minister George Fernandes was on hand for the test.

Officials say the firing of the Agni I missile was successful.

It is a variant of the longer-range Agni missile, which is capable of hitting targets in China.

The missile tested Thursday has a range of about 600 to 800 kilometers. It is capable of carrying nuclear warheads and is seen as a deterrent against Pakistan.

Defense analysts say the latest test will boost India's overall nuclear delivery capability. India conducted nuclear tests in 1998, prompting similar tests by Pakistan.

The latest indian test comes amid tough rhetoric between the two countries about their nuclear capabilities. Defense Minister George Fernandes recently said "there will be no Pakistan" if India retaliated to a any nuclear strike by Islamabad. A day later, Pakistan said it would teach India an unforgettable lesson, if New Delhi launched a nuclear attack against it. Both countries came close to war, last year, raising fears of a nuclear exchange.

Pakistan responded to the latest Indian test by saying it was not unexpected, because India's nuclear and missile ambitions are well known. Pakistani Information Minister Rashid Ahmed says the test reflects what he calls New Delhi's policy of imposing its hegemony in the region.

In New Delhi, defense analysts describe India's latest missile test as "routine" and say it is unlikely to spark renewed military tension between the two countries.