NEW DELHI — India on Sunday successfully test-fired for the second time a nuclear-capable missile that can strike the major Chinese cities of Beijing and Shanghai, officials said.
Ravi Gupta, a spokesman for the Defence Research and Development Organisation, said the latest test of the Agni-V brought the missile a step closer to being inducted into India's arsenal at some point in 2014 or 2015.
The missile was launched early Sunday morning from Wheeler Island off India's east coast.
The missile has a range of 5,000 kilometers (3,100 miles) and was first successfully tested in April last year. It's seen as a boost to India's efforts to counter China's regional dominance and become an Asian power in its own right.
China is far ahead of India in the missile race, with intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of reaching anywhere in India.
India's longest-range missile is currently the Agni-III, which has a range of 3,500 kilometers (2,100 miles), leaving it short of many major Chinese cities.
The Agni-V is a solid-fuel, three-stage missile designed to carry a 1.5-ton nuclear warhead. It stands 17.5 meters (57 feet) tall, has a launch weight of 50 tons and was built at a reported cost of 25 billion rupees ($486 million). It can be moved across the country by road or rail and can be used to carry multiple warheads or to launch satellites into orbit.
India already has the capability of hitting anywhere inside archrival Pakistan, but in recent years its increased defense spending has been focused on countering a perceived Chinese threat. 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.
Gupta said the new Agni, named for the Hindi word for fire, should not be seen as a threat.
"We have a declared no-first-use policy. Our program is for deterrence and for peace," he said.