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Thursday, 18 January, 2001, 13:15 GMT
China's fears over India missile test
The Agni-II is capable of striking deep within China
China has expressed its concern over a possible South Asian arms race after India tested a nuclear-capable missile on Wednesday.

The test signals India's determination to build strategic autonomy and deter China

Analyst Brahma Chellaney
Beijing said it had noted the testing of the Agni-II - an intermediate range ballistic missile which can be fired from a mobile platform.

The missile can carry a one-tonne payload and has a range of over 2,000 km - covering all of Pakistan and most of China.

Pakistan reacted strongly after the missile was tested on Wednesday and Britain and Japan have also condemned it.

Regional stability

Wednesday's test took place as senior Chinese leader Li Peng was ending a visit to India.

However, Beijing refused to comment on the timing of the launch.

"Like most members of international society, China hopes the South Asian region will maintain peace and stability and does wish to see any form of arms race in the region," a foreign ministry spokesman said.

The Indian foreign ministry said on Wednesday that it had informed all the five permanent members of the UN Security Council in advance as well as Pakistan, Germany and Japan.

Confidence or snub?

Analysts said the fact that the test took place during Mr Li's presence on Indian soil signalled Delhi's growing confidence.

Li Peng in India
The test coincided with Li Peng's visit
"The test signals India's determination to build strategic autonomy and deter China," China analyst Brahma Chellaney said.

India has maintained that the Agni-II is central to its plans to develop a minimum nuclear deterrent in the face of Chinese and Pakistani aggression.

China had reacted with alarm when India and Pakistan tested nuclear devices in 1998.

The testing of the Agni-II also comes at a time when India and Pakistan appear to be making tentative steps towards resuming a dialogue over the Kashmir conflict.

Observers believe it is unlikely the test would derail the process.

"This test has to be seen in the context of the peace race, or rather peace crawl, in South Asia," said Stephen Cohen of the US-based Brookings institute.

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See also:

17 Jan 01 | South Asia
Indian missile test angers Pakistan
18 Aug 99 | South Asia
India stands firm on nuclear deterrence
02 May 00 | World
The world's nuclear arsenal
16 Apr 99 | South Asia
India fires new missile
20 Mar 00 | South Asia
South Asia's nuclear race
18 Jan 01 | South Asia
China and India reach out
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