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India test-fires sea-based nuclear-capable missile: ministry

by Staff Writers
New Delhi (AFP) Feb 26, 2008
India conducted its first test of a nuclear-capable missile from an undersea platform on Tuesday, completing its goal of having air, land and sea ballistic systems, the defence ministry said.

The launch from a submerged pontoon took place off India's southeast coast near the port city of Visakhapatnam around 1:00 pm (0730 GMT), a defence ministry spokesman said.

"The test was successful," ministry spokesman Sitanshu Kar said.

India announced earlier this month that it would conduct its first test of a submarine-based ballistic missile named the K-15, which has a top range of 700 kilometres (438 miles).

S. Prahlada, chief controller of India's Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), has said the K-15 missile would be "integrated" with a nuclear-powered submarine that India is building.

India's nuclear submarine is expected to be be ready for sea trials by 2009, the Indian navy has said.

After conducting nuclear tests in May 1998, New Delhi announced a doctrine which stressed the development of air, land and sea ballistic capabilities to enhance its nuclear deterrence.

With the latest test, India joins an elite group -- the United States, Russia, France and China -- that has such ability.

The test comes two months after India's chief military scientist M. Natarajan said New Delhi would test a ballistic missile with a range of 6,000 kilometres in 2008.

Pakistan says India's missile projects could set off a potentially lethal arms race in South Asia, though both sides have an agreement to notify each other of tests and have engaged in a peace process since 2004.

New Delhi detonated its first atom bomb in 1974 and declared itself a full-fledged nuclear weapons state after the 1998 tests.

India plans to buy a host of new weapons systems in the coming decade to upgrade its mostly Soviet Union-era military equipment, including a deal for 126 multi-role fighters valued at 10 to 12 billion dollars expected to be announced in the coming months.

The DRDO's production chief, Prahlada, has said that New Delhi had approved a 625-million-dollar joint venture with Israel to build surface-to-air missiles for the Indian navy.

Prahlada has also said India's array of ballistic and short-range missiles was ready for export.

US Defence Secretary Robert Gates arrived in New Delhi Tuesday to promote sales of US-made weapons over Russian or European makers, including fighter aircraft.

Asked if helping to arm an emerging nuclear power carried risks, Gates said: "We have to deal with the world as we find it."

"India is the world's largest democracy. It is in our interest to develop this relationship, just as it is in India's," he told reporters after strolling the grounds of the tomb of a 16th century Mughal emperor, Humayun.

Gates was scheduled to hold a series of meetings with Indian leaders here before leaving Wednesday for Turkey.

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