India reports successful anti-ballistic missile test to beef up defences
India yesterday successfully test-fired an anti-ballistic missile capable of intercepting targets outside the Earth's atmosphere, a major step in development of a missile defence system that is available to only a handful of nations.
Sharing borders - some disputed - with nuclear-armed China and Pakistan, India is trying to develop a two-tier missile defence system that aims to provide a multi-layered shield against ballistic missile attack.
"This [test] is part of the ballistic missile defence system which we are developing," said Ravi Kumar Gupta, spokesman for the Defence Research and Development Organisation.
"The mission has been completed and the interception parameter has been achieved."
Currently, only a small club of nations including the United States, Russia and Israel possess an anti-ballistic missile system.
India has fought three wars with Pakistan and came close to a fourth one in 2001.
It lost a brief Himalayan border war with its larger neighbour China in 1962 and has since strived to improve its defences.
In recent years, New Delhi has accused Beijing of making hundreds of intrusions along the disputed border. However, Beijing has repeatedly denied crossing into Indian territory.
Adding to its worries are Beijing's forays into the Indian Ocean and its involvement in building a string of ports stretching from Pakistan's Gwadar to Chittagong in Bangladesh.
In light of changes in the geo-political situation in its neighbourhood, many analysts have suggested revisiting India's nuclear doctrine, whose central principle is that New Delhi would not be first to use atomic weapons in a conflict.
The opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which is widely tipped to form the next government in May after ongoing national elections, has promised to revise the doctrine, but has ruled out the first use of nuclear weapons.
BJP leader Narendra Modi, a Hindu nationalist, has taken an aggressive tone against the two neighbouring nations.
On the campaign trail, he has warned Beijing to shed its "mindset of expansionism" and in the past he has railed against Pakistan, an Islamic state, for attacks by Muslim militants in India.