New Delhi (CNSNews.com) - India's capacity to build inter-continental ballistic missiles has raised concerns in Washington, but a top analyst from the Central Intelligence Agency, along with Indian defense analysts, says this does not threaten the United States.
Addressing a Senate subcommittee considering foreign missile developments, Robert Walpole of the CIA's strategic and nuclear program said three other countries - Iran, Iraq and North Korea - were also likely to build ICBMs, but in their cases could pose a threat to the U.S.
The concerns about India were raised after New Delhi recently test-launched its Agni II surface-to-surface missile, which boasts the capacity to hit targets up to 1,500 miles away.
Walpole noted that any country capable of launching a satellite could develop ICBMs.
Referring to the debate in the United States, a senior Indian Army officer said India's missile program had never been aimed at the U.S.
India's worries lie in its own neighborhood, home to countries like China, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Nepal, said the officer, speaking on condition of anonymity.
"A nuclear-capable missile delivery option is necessary to deter Pakistan from using nuclear weapons first," he said. "It would also serve as a hedge against a confrontation with China."
India, Pakistan and China are nuclear-capable states.
Defense analyst M.K. Laul said China had a powerful and efficient missile system in place and India would have no option but to counter it in the long term. India and China fought a war in 1962, and squabbles relating to border land disputes persist today.
"For us a nuclear-capable missile is not a symbol of world power but an important component of self-reliance," Laul said.
According to a senior writer on defense affairs, T.R. Ramachandran, India's missile development program is indigenous and not dependent on any country. Irrespective of the U.S. view, India would develop missiles capable of carrying nuclear payloads.
Referring to American concerns about India's missile program, he said Washington was opposed to the proliferation of missile technology. U.S. officials believe India's missile program has received help from Russia, in the same way as Pakistan's has had Chinese assistance.
In the past, every Indian advance in missile development has been matched by Pakistan, with China's help.
Ramachandran said a volatile South Asia region was not in the interest of the U.S.
The Agni II is a two-stage, solid-fuel intermediate-range missile, with a range that brings major targets in Pakistan and China within reach.
India currently has only one nuclear-capable missile in service, the short-range (90-150 miles) Prithvi, which can carry a payload of 1,200 to 2,400 pounds - the weight of a modest-size nuclear warhead. India has deployed Prithvi missiles along its border with Pakistan.
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