India Tests Short-Range Agni Ballistic Missile

By Wagner, Alex | Arms Control Today, March 2002 | Go to article overview

India Tests Short-Range Agni Ballistic Missile


Wagner, Alex, Arms Control Today


AMID A TENSE military standoff between India and Pakistan, New Delhi claimed it successfully tested a new, short-- range version of the Agni-1 ballistic missile on January 25.

This is the first known test of an Agni 1-- variant, an adaptation of the 1,500-kilometer, two-stage Agni-1. Because the Agni series is better configured for nuclear warheads than India's short-range Prithvi missile, a shorter-range Agni could provide India with an increased capability to deliver nuclear payloads to targets throughout Pakistan.

India fired its new Agni over international waters from its "Island Test Range" at Chandipur. An Indian diplomat specified that the test's "notified range" was approximately 725 kilometers. According to the Indian government, "The mission's objectives were fully met as confirmed by data from the network of ground radars, telemetry stations, and visual observations."

Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee cited national security considerations in justifying the missile test. "For the nation's security and protection, we are taking several steps, and Agni is one among them," he said following the test.

At a briefing that same day, Indian Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Nirupama Rao described the flight test as "part of the technical evolution of our missile program," with the timing "determined solely by technical factors." Rao noted that Pakistan was given advance warning of the test, in accordance with a series of confidence-- building measures agreed to at Lahore in 1999.

The test comes at a time of particularly high tensions that have followed a December terrorist attack on the Indian parliament building, for which New Delhi has held Pakistan responsible. India and Pakistan have both recently upgraded their armed forces' alert status, including deploying short-- range nuclear-capable missiles, and have had cross-border skirmishes in Kashmir.

In a January 25 interview with British Broadcasting Corporation television, Aziz Ahmed Khan, spokesman for the Pakistani Foreign Ministry, called the test's timing "particularly deplorable" and said the test demonstrated "unwise behavior" that is "prejudicial to the pursuit of peace and stability in South Asia. …

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