India Weighs Developing ICBM With 6,200-Mile Reach

India is considering whether to abandon a self-imposed limit on the range of its nuclear-capable missiles in order to develop an ICBM that can strike targets at distances of more than 6,200 miles, the Pioneer newspaper reported on Sunday (see GSN, June 13).

Currently, Indian policies do not permit production of missiles with ranges in excess of 3,100 miles. Only China, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States today possess an ICBM strike capability.

The Indian Defense Research and Development Organization in May forwarded the ICBM proposal to the Defense Ministry, which is now weighing the matter. A final decision on the plan is expected to be made by the government’s Cabinet Security Committee.

New Delhi adopted its voluntary missile-range restriction after it achieved a successful trial launch of its Agni 3 missile in 2006. The intermediate-range weapon can travel about 1,860 miles. That flight permitted DRDO researchers to advance development of intercontinental strike capacities, though the civilian leadership still needs to approve the new capabilities.

The Indian military has announced plans to conduct a first flight test of the Agni 5 missile in December. The long-range missile is designed to travel as far as 3,100 miles, which is almost enough to classify it as an ICBM (see GSN, June 6).

Informed insiders said the chief aim of developing an ICBM would be to prevent an attack by neighboring China, which has significantly increased its own military spending in recent years (Rahul Datta, Pioneer, June 20).