Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education

Front Page



UK Politics







Talking Point

In Depth

On Air

Low Graphics

Sunday, April 11, 1999 Published at 15:29 GMT 16:29 UK

World: South Asia

India tests ballistic missile

Agni missile: Pride of India

India's test-firing of a longer-range ballistic missile has caused widespread international concern.

Owen Bennett-Jones in Islamabad: Pakistan has said there will be a fitting response
The new version of the Agni weapon is believed to be capable of carrying a nuclear warhead and could target all of Pakistan and much of China.

The United States, Britain and Japan have condemned the test, which ends a five-year period of restraint on the controversial weapon.

India' regional rival, Pakistan, has accused Delhi of harming the spirit of cooperation being fostered by both governments over the past few months.

'Perfect test'

Mahajan: "Pefect in text-book fashion"
Indian Information Minister, Pramod Mahajan, told a news conference that the missile had a perfect launch from a testing centre off the coast of eastern India.

"The government has twice proved in one year that as far as national security is concerned they will not budge," said Mr Mahajan, referring to India's nuclear tests 11 months ago.

The upgraded version of Agni has a planned range of about 2,200km (1,375 miles), which would put all of Pakistan and much of China within its target radius.

Pakistani Foreign Minister Sartaj Aziz: "The international community should call for restraint"
The Foreign Minister of Pakistan, Sartaj Aziz, said his country might respond to the Indian action in a "befitting" manner.

"Since they have gone ahead, we would probably have to respond, but we will make a decision in a day or two," he said.

He also said India had warned Pakistan of its intention to test the new missile, but it had not given specific details about the date or time of the test.

India still insists its missiles and nuclear programme are purely for self-defence.

Defence Minister George Fernandes said: "We have reached a point from where no one from anywhere will threaten us any more."

International condemnation

The United States said it regretted the missile test, which an embassy official described as "out of keeping with recent developments".

[ image: Video projection of Agni II missile launch]
Video projection of Agni II missile launch
The US had urged India to refrain from further testing as part of a series of confidence-building measures with Pakistan.

Japan also condemned the test, calling on both India and Pakistan to refrain from further missile testing.

"The missile testing could be detrimental to the peace and stability of the region," said a statement from the Japanese Foreign Ministry.

Britain also joined in the calls for restraint.

"We continue to believe that restraint in developing missiles and nuclear weapons is in India's long-term interest," said a spokesman from the UK Foreign Office.

BJP's security record

Satish Jacob: "This test comes as the BJP government faces its most serious crisis"
India's last ballistic missile test was in February 1994, when it tested a shorter range version of Agni, named after a fire god.

After that, successive Indian Governments put further missile tests on hold, under international pressure to scale back its nuclear programme.

But last year India's Hindu nationalist-led government staged the country's first nuclear tests for nearly a quarter of a century shortly after talking office.

The tests raised fears of a regional nuclear arms race, and resulted in sanctions and widespread condemnation.

Agni II 'expected'

Our correspondent in Delhi, Daniel Lak, says Western diplomats privately say the Agni test was expected and probably inevitable, given the government's commitment to improving India's national security whatever the rest of the world might think.

The new missile test comes at a time of political instability in India, with the government facing the possibility of losing its majority when parliament reconvenes on Thursday.

A key coalition partner has threatened to withdraw from the ruling alliance, which could precipitate the government's collapse.

But announcing the missile test, Mr Mahajan denied that it had anything to do with domestic politics.

Advanced options | Search tips

Back to top | BBC News Home | BBC Homepage | ©

Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East | South Asia

Relevant Stories

11 Apr 99 | South Asia
Vajpayee's Agni launch statement

04 Mar 99 | South Asia
India 'to test Agni-II missile'

28 May 98 | South Asia
India and Pakistan: troubled relations

31 Jan 99 | South Asia
No agreement in nuclear talks

25 Jun 98 | Analysis
Missile race hots up

Internet Links

BJP Defence Policy

India's Institute for Defence Studies and Analysis

Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Site

South Asians against nukes

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.

In this section

Sharif: I'm innocent

India's malnutrition 'crisis'

Tamil rebels consolidate gains

From Sport
Saqlain stars in Aussie collapse

Pakistan fears Afghan exodus

Hindu-Buddhist conference in Nepal

Afghan clerics issue bin Laden fatwa

Culture awards at Asian festival

Gandhi pleads for husband's killer

UN condemns Afghan bombing

Gandhi prize for Bangladeshi