BEIJING:China’s strategic experts and the official media are trying to provoke western countries saying the Agni-V missile has a longer range than India would admit, and it can hit cities in Europe.
In comments that are obviously authorized by the defence ministry, Chinese experts said the Indian missile actually has a range of 8,000 kilometers and not the shorter range of 5,000 kms, as claimed by India. There are signs China will try to pressure the US and Russia not to sell missile guidance systems to India.
“The missile brings the whole of Asia, 70 per cent of Europe and other regions under its strike range and puts India among a select band of countries in the world to possess the technology of intercontinental ballistic missiles,” the official Xinhua news agency said in a dispatch published in dozens of Chinese newspapers. Another paper, the Global Times, even carried a map showing Moscow, Tehran and Jakarta among cities coming within the range of Indian missiles.
An expert at the PLA Academy of Military Sciences said the Agni-V actually has the potential to reach targets 8,000 kilometers away, according to the Communist Party-controlled Global Times. It quoted the researcher, Du Wenlong, saying the Indian government had deliberately downplayed the missile’s capability in order to avoid causing concern to other countries.
“According to China’s standard, an ICBM should have a range of at least 8,000 kilometers. The Agni-V’s range could be further enhanced to become an ICBM,” the paper quoted another expert, Zhang Zhaozhong, a professor with the People’s Liberation Army National Defence University, as saying.
But some Chinese experts have raised questions about New Delhi’s capability to actually use the missile.
“India does not posses high-precision guidance system. To make up for the shortfall, it has to buy it from US and from Russia. These counties may be reluctant to sell their most advanced technology,” the official China Central Television quoted some experts as saying.
CCTV even questioned India’s infrastructure capabilities. “The missile weighs 50 tonnes. It has no suitable loading vehicle to transport it. Due to India’s poor infrastructure, the country’s bridges and roads cannot bear the weight of the missile”. “So far, it can only be launched from a fixed position. Even though it was successful, it will take a long time to build an operational missile force,” it said.
In the Global Times interview, Zhang suggested the Agni-V would help India rise from a regional to a world power. China must work on developing defence systems against the threat of ballistic missile. “It is India’s goal to possess an ICBM, as the country seeks to improve its status and become a major world player. Without it, India will remain a regional power,” Zhang said.
By itself, the Agni-V will not take away China’s superiority in this technology, Zhang said. “But for the sake of regional stability, China should continue to develop defence systems against ballistic missile threats,” he said.
The Communist Party’s main organ, the People’s Daily, ran a commentary, “Risks behindIndia’s military build-up” saying the Agni-V development shows Indian’s intention to seek a regional balance of power.
“However, in the context of the eastward shift of global economic power and the changing Asian geopolitical pattern, India should cooperate with neighbouring countries and reduce its own persecution mania,” it said.
China successfully conducted its first ground-based mid-course ballistic missile interception experiment in January 2010, becoming the second country in the world to conduct this kind of missile defence test, the local media pointed out.
These views, mostly fuelled by experts connected to China’s ministry of defence, were different in tone and content from comments made by the foreign affairs ministry on Thursday. The foreign affairs ministry said China was for “cooperative partnership” with India as it was not a rival.