As this AP story at Fox News reports, India will soon be testing a new nuclear missile capable of striking major cities in China, as part of an effort to counter-balance China's growing military power in the region.
India is planning to test launch a new nuclear-capable missile that for the first time would give it the capability of hitting the major Chinese cities of Beijing and Shanghai.
The government has hailed the Agni-V missile, with a range of 3,100 miles, as a major boost to its efforts to counter China's regional dominance and become an Asian power in its own right. The test launch was slated to come as early as Wednesday evening, but Indian media said a delay was likely because of poor weather conditions.
"It will be a quantum leap in India's strategic capability," said Ravi Gupta, spokesman for India's Defense Research and Development Organization, which built the missile.
China is far ahead of India in the missile race, with intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of reaching anywhere in India. Currently, the longest-range Indian missile, the Agni-III, has a range of only 2,100 miles and falls short of many major Chinese cities.
India and China fought a war in 1962 and continue to nurse a border dispute. India has also been suspicious of Beijing's efforts to increase its influence in the Indian Ocean in recent years.
"While China doesn't really consider India any kind of a threat or any kind of a rival, India definitely doesn't think in the same way," said Rahul Bedi, a defense analyst in New Delhi.
Among India’s military leadership and security hawks, China looms larger and larger as a potential threat. They are particularly concerned about what they identify as a “collusive threat” posed by a nuclear-armed neighbour, the traditional foe Pakistan, and the growing military might of China.
China’s supply of weaponry to Pakistan, particularly JF-17 jets, has fuelled these suspicions. So too has China’s assertiveness over territory in the Himalayas and at sea. Delhi was alarmed by a challenge to an Indian naval vessel by the Chinese navy in July off the coast of Vietnam – described by Indian officials as the first “incident” of its kind.
China has also rattled India’s defence establishment by parading technological breakthroughs, like its own aircraft carrier and ship-busting missiles, all of which could come to challenge India’s dominance of the Indian Ocean and crucial shipping lanes between the Middle East and Asia.
India has been no slouch itself. Although 70 per cent of its military hardware is imported, it has launched its own stealth frigate and a nuclear submarine modelled on a Russian design. It has tested a range of longer-distance missiles, including a supersonic cruise missile called the Brahmos, and boasts a capable space programme.
* * *
Nonetheless, India’s military establishment is looking more to its eastern border, where the Chinese invaded, albeit briefly, in 1962. A programme of infrastructure and airfield improvement is under way to give greater reach into the Himalayan region. The army is pushing for a $2.5bn Mountain Strike Corps, which would lead to the deployment of a greater number of high-altitude troops (required to operate up to a height of 20,000 feet).Whatever China's goals, it is clear that its neighbors are apprehensive of China asserting itself military.