India's new nuclear-capable Agni III missile failed in its first test-firing over the weekend because it was unable to reach its target, Defense Minister Pranab Mukherjee said. The Defense Ministry had initially declared Sunday's test of India's longest-range missile a success, but it plunged into the ocean in the Bay of Bengal, short of its target.
Terming the failure a snag, Mukherjee told reporters late Sunday that India would press ahead with the program and correct the faults.
He did not say what had gone wrong, but Indian media reported that the missile's second stage did not separate during flight. Citing unnamed Defense Ministry officials, the Hindustan Times newspaper said the problems were caused by a design flaw. Defense Ministry officials could not immediately be reached for comment Monday.
Mukherjee was at the launch complex, on Wheeler Island off Orissa, to witness the test.
The launch of the Agni III, designed to fly 3,000 kilometers (1,900 miles), was a routine test not saber-rattling against the country's nuclear-armed archrival and neighbour, Pakistan. New Delhi and Islamabad regularly test-fire missiles, but normally only give each other prior notice for long-range launches. "We were informed about the test," Pakistani Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Tasnim Aslam said in Islamabad.
Indian defense analyst C. Uday Bhaskar dismissed speculation in the Indian media that the missile. "Any strategic capability is not aimed at any particular nation. To say it is China-specific is misleading," Bhaskar said. Relations between India and China have often been tense, marked by decades of mutual suspicion rooted in a 1962 border war. But relations have warmed considerably in recent years as the two Asian giants have boosted trade and economic ties.
The missile was launched at 11:03 a.m. (0635 GMT) on Sunday. India's homegrown missile arsenal already includes the short-range Prithvi ballistic missile, the medium-range Akash, the anti-tank Nag and the supersonic Brahmos missile, developed jointly with Russia.