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No US pressure on Agni-III missile cap: Govt

It is said that the Govt capped Agni-III programme to satisfy US concerns.

india Updated: May 16, 2006 23:20 IST

The Indian government on Tuesday rebutted media reports claiming it had postponed the test-firing of the nuclear-capable Agni-III missile under US pressure and asserted that such decisions were based on its assessment of national security needs.

"MoD (the Defence Ministry) has already clarified that the Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee was speaking in general terms about India's policy of responsibility and restraint in pursuing its strategic programme," External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Navtej Sarna said in response to a question.

Media reports on Tuesday alleged the government had decided to cap the Agni-III programme to satisfy Washington's non-proliferation concerns and to win approval for the India-US civilian nuclear deal.

"Decisions concerning the country's strategic programme, including the development and testing of different classes of missiles, are based on technical factors and a continuous review and assessment of our overall security environment," Sarna said.

Ruling out any political pressure against the test firing of Agni-III missile, Mukherjee had said on Monday that New Delhi was exercising a "self-imposed restraint" not to go ahead with it.

"We have no pressure on us. Nor are we putting any political pressure. It is just we have decided to have self-imposed restraint," he had told reporters on the sidelines of a function to inaugurate a conference of defence accountants in New Delhi.

"As responsible members of the international community, we want to keep our international commitments on non-proliferation," Mukherjee said when asked why India was not going ahead with testing the Agni-III missile.

Mukherjee's comment was interpreted by a section of the media as a tacit admission that New Delhi was trying to win approval of Washington on the civil nuclear deal by going out of the way to observe what are called "international norms on non-proliferation".

Mukherjee's comments come after an assertion by top defence scientist M Natarajan on Sunday that the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) had cleared all technical parameters for testing the missile, which has a range of 3,000-6,000 km.

First Published: May 16, 2006 21:24 IST