April 18, 2012 / 3:30 PM / 8 years ago

India defers long-range missile test launch

BHUBANESWAR, India (Reuters) - India on Wednesday postponed the test-launch of its first long-range missile capable of reaching deep into China and as far as Europe due to bad weather, a government official said.

The launch of the Agni V, which can carry nuclear warheads and has a range of 5,000 km (3,125 miles), will thrust the emerging Asian power into an elite club of nations with intercontinental nuclear defense capabilities.

“Due to heavy lightning in the area, the scheduled test flight of Agni V has been postponed till tomorrow for safety reasons,” defense ministry spokesman Sitanshu Kar told Reuters.

The launch of the Indian-made Agni V, if successful, would be the crowning achievement of a missile program developed primarily to counter any threat from China.

Only the U.N. Security Council permanent members - China, France, Russia, the United States and Britain - have such long-range weapons.

The planned launch, which was flagged well in advance, has attracted none of the criticism faced by hermit state North Korea for its failed bid to test a missile last week.

“We do not consider India a threat to NATO allies or NATO territory,” NATO secretary general Anders Fogh Rasmussen said in Brussels ahead of the launch.

Thursday’s launch may prompt a renewed push from within the defense establishment to build a fully fledged intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) capable of reaching the Americas, though some of India’s allies may bridle at such an ambition.

Writing by Arup Roychoudhury and Frank Jack Daniel; Editing by Myra MacDonald

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