India test-fires nuclear-capable missile

The Takeaway

India on Wednesday joined an exclusive group of nations, including the United States, China, Britain, France, Russia and Israel, with long-range nuclear weapon capability.

India launched a-50 ton missile called the Agni 5, capable of reaching all of China’s key cities, as well as Tehran, Iran, and other major communities in Asia and even parts of eastern Europe.

According to David Sanger, chief Washington correspondent for the New York Times, India’s missile launch does not come as a surprise.

“The Chinese have seen this coming,” Sanger said. “To India, China is the big worry, and a huge border. So they want it clear to the Chinese that they can reach all of their major population centers.”

Sanger thinks India’s actions have implications for long-time rival Pakistan as well.

“What it does is it provides a rationale within the Pakistani government to keep up the development, not only of its missile capability, but also to build up their nuclear capability,” Sanger said. “At a time that just about every other nation around the world is either keeping its nuclear capability about the same or trying to reduce it, it’s the Pakistanis who are building up the fastest.”

Last week, North Korea received international condemnation after launching a rocket over the Yellow Sea. The rocket exploded shortly after its launch, but despite the technological failure, U.S. officials spoke out strongly against North Korea’s actions. In contrast, the White House released a mild statement in response to India’s missile launch.

In an email to Yahoo News, National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor did not denounce India’s actions.

“We urge all nuclear-capable states to exercise restraint regarding nuclear and missile capabilities, and continue to discourage actions that might destabilize the South Asia region,” Vietor wrote.

According to Sanger, the White House cannot condemn India’s missile launch because the U.S. has supported their civilian nuclear energy program. Back in 2008, the United States signed the U.S.-India Nuclear Deal, paving the way for nuclear cooperation between the two countries.

“The U.S. is in a position of having brought India back ‘into the club’ by reaching an agreement that allows US exports to India, even of a nuclear nature, despite the fact that (India) has never signed a nuclear non-proliferation treaty,” Sanger said. “That is an agreement that is still quite controversial. I’m sure the U.S. will be unhappy but probably muted.”

Sanger thinks India’s missile launch is part of a larger trend towards heavy militarization across the Asian region.

“What we’re seeing in general is a big military build up throughout Asia, which is the natural reaction to the fact that much of the world’s wealth has moved in that direction,” Sanger said. “When countries get richer, they start spending money on a lot more military capability. In this particular case, what you’re seeing is all of Asia becoming much more heavily militarized.”

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