India test fires second nuclear-capable missile in 10 days

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Nearly 10 days after India conducted a routine test of its nuclear-capable Agni missile, it carried out another test of its other nuclear-capable missile, Prithvi.

The government said in a statement that a “successful training launch of a Short-Range Ballistic Missile, Prithvi-II” was carried out Wednesday at 7:30pm from the Integrated Test Range, Chandipur, Odisha.

“The missile is a proven system and is capable of striking targets with a very high degree of precision,” the statement said, adding that the “user training launch successfully validated all operational and technical parameters of the missile.”

Prithvi-II is an indigenously developed surface-to-surface missile, which has a range of around 250 km and can carry a one tonne payload.

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India had tested its Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile Agni-IV on June 6, which can travel as far as 4,000 km.

After the “routine user training” launch test of the nuclear-capable Agni-IV, the government had stated that the successful test “reaffirms India’s policy of having a Credible Minimum Deterrence Capability.”

The tests come at a time when globally there seems to be a revamp of nuclear capabilities. The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) had said in a report on June 13 that the post-cold war decline of nuclear arsenal around the world was ending.

It said that the nine nuclear-armed states — the United States, Russia, the United Kingdom, France, China, India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea – “continue to modernize their nuclear arsenals and although the total number of nuclear weapons declined slightly between January 2021 and January 2022, the number will probably increase in the next decade.”

China, it said, is in the middle of “a substantial expansion of its nuclear weapon arsenal, which satellite images indicate includes the construction of over 300 new missile silos” and added that several additional “warheads are thought to have been assigned to operational forces in 2021 following the delivery of new mobile launchers and a submarine.”

For India and Pakistan, the SIPRI report noted that both countries “appear to be expanding their nuclear arsenals, and both countries introduced and continued to develop new types of nuclear delivery system in 2021.”

Russia and the US still possess over 90 per cent of all nuclear weapons globally, it said, but the “other seven nuclear-armed states are either developing or deploying new weapon systems, or have announced their intention to do so.”

While India has around 160 total nuclear warheads, Pakistan has 165, and China has around 350. Russia’s total nuclear warheads are 5,977 and the United States has 5,428, as per SIPRI data.

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