Saturday, January 26, 2002, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi


M A I N   N E W S

Short-range Agni missile test-fired
Tribune News Service and Agencies

Balasore, January 25
In a move to bolster the country’s nuclear deterrence capability, India today successfully test-fired a new “shorter range” Agni missile with a strike range of 700-km.

The test, coming a day ahead of Republic Day, was part of efforts to evaluate the indigenous capability to guarantee a credible minimum nuclear deterrent, an official spokesperson said soon after the missile was launched at 8.45 a.m. from Wheelers Islands off the Orissa coast.

The 700-km Agni, which “met all mission objectives”, has covered the strike range gap between surface-to-surface 250-km Prithvi missile and 1400-km Agni-I.

The testing of the shorter range variant of the Agni missile comes after successful user trials and opening of production lines of longer range Agni-I and Agni-II. Defence experts said it would give India a punch to more than match the Chinese-made M-9 and M-11 missiles in Pakistan’s inventory.

A Defence spokesman said the test-firing was tracked by the network of ground radars, telemetry stations and Naval ships positioned near the intended impact point.

Defence Minister George Fernandes, who witnessed the launch, had informed the Prime Minister on the telephone about the successful test-firing.

Describing the launch of the missile as flawless, Mr Fernandes, who witnessed the test flight along with the Chief of Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal S. Krishnaswamy, and Dr V.K. Aatre, Scientific Adviser, said the shorter range Agni would enhance India’s capability in surface-to-surface missiles.

NEW DELHI: India made it clear that today’s successful test-fire of Agni missile was not directed against any country and would have no bearing on its current military standoff with Paistan.

Besides, the usual procedures of international laws were observed as India had given prior information to the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council — USA, UK, France, Russia and China — besides sharing it with heads of mission here of Japan and Germany.

Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee today said the Agni test-fire was one of the many steps that the country was taking for its defence and security.

Congratulating the scientists for the flawless test of the missile, he said: “Agni is an ongoing project. We are taking many more steps for the nation’s security and protection. This is one of them.”

Speaking at a function at his residence, the Prime Minister said scientists fully deserved all praise for the test-fire of the Agni missile and the launch of the INSAT-3C satellite which was an important step in the nation’s goal to use science for development.

A spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs told reporters after the successful test-fire of the short range variant of Agni surface-to-surface missile that the test was conducted in “a most transparent way” and Pakistan as well as permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, were informed in advance.

She said the Agni test was undertaken in a non-provocative manner and in accordance with international practices. “It is not a provocative action as it has no bearing on the current border situation’’, she stated.

The spokesperson said India never sought to aggravate the border tension and added that the current border tension had its origin in the cross-border terrorism promoted by Pakistan.

She said the Indian authorities had given notice to mariners well in advance. “The flight test was not abrupt or sudden” and the timing of the test was determined solely by technical factors.

She described it as “a measured and well thought out step undertaken in a transparent manner.”

Deputy High Commissioner of Pakistan Abbas Jaleel Gilani was summoned to the Foreign Office a couple of days back and informed about the government’s intention to undertake the test. This was in keeping with the spirit of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), concluded during the Lahore summit.

Minister of State for External Affairs Omar Abdullah said the test flight of Agni was not aimed at sending signals to Pakistan and was instead a part of India’s ongoing missile programme.Back


Agni can carry N-warheads
Rajeev Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 25
The short-range version of Agni missile which was successfully test-fired today is capable of carrying nuclear warheads and also has mobile launchers which gives India a facility of moving this tactical weapon away from the prying spy satellites.

Well-placed sources here said today’s launch also gives a befitting reply to Pakistan’s recent acquisition of 100 missile launchers from China for the Shaheen and Ghauri series of missiles.

Ever since the military stand-off started between India and Pakistan, the Pervez Musharraf regime has also started assembling facilities for putting together the Chinese-made Shaheens and Ghauris, better known as “Red missiles painted green”.

Sources pointed out that the short-range version of Agni tested today was equipped with mobile launchers which could shift the missile from the prying eyes of the spies in the skies. Normally, silo-fitted missiles are sitting duck targets for the spy satellites.

Today’s test-fire of Agni and the fact that its range is under 700 km sends a burning message to Islamabad: that its target is Pakistan not China.

Notwithstanding the political and official statements, today’s test-launch has several subtle messages, which are as follows:

* That India, a country of one billion people, will not be pressured by the international community and will go ahead in taking any measures for its security which it deems fit.

* That it is yet another incident in the chain of Indian reaction in the wake of the December 13 terrorist attack on Parliament, coming after diplomatic moves, military preparations and the military build-up on the borders.

All this shows that India means business.Back


Agni test threat to stability: Pak

Islamabad, January 25
Pakistan today reacted strongly to the test firing of a short range version of Agni missile saying it threatened regional stability, specially during prevailing Indo-Pakistan tensions.

A Foreign Office statement here said Pakistan took note of the development and also wanted the international community to take notice of the “Indian behaviour.”

Stating that Pakistan favoured policy of restraint, it said: “We hope the international community will take note of this Indian behaviour, which is prejudicial to the pursuit of stability in our region, especially during the current situation.”

“The test comes at a time of tensions when the Indian forces are massed on our borders... On its part, Pakistan favours a policy of restraint in the region.”

It also said Pakistan had the means to defend itself.

“Our missile programme follows the logic of technical requirements. We test when it is technically required in the process of development and validation of our missile capabilities,” it said.

India had given advance notice about the Agni test to Pakistan.Back

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