BHUBANESWAR - India successfully test-fired on Thursday a nuclear-capable missile that can reach Beijing and Eastern Europe, thrusting the emerging Asian power into an small club of nations with intercontinental nuclear weapons capabilities.
Footage showed the rocket with a range of more than 5,000 km (3,100 miles) blasting through clouds from an island off India's east coast. The defense minister said the test was "immaculate".
"Today's launch represents another milestone in our quest for our security, preparedness and to explore the frontiers of science," Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said in a congratulatory message to the scientists who developed the rocket.
The Indian-made Agni V is the crowning achievement of a program developed primarily with a threat from neighboring China in mind. It will not be operational for at least two years, the government says.
Only the UN Security Council permanent members - China, France, Russia the United States and Britain - along with Israel, are believed to have such long-range weapons.
Fast emerging as a world economic power, India is keen to play a larger role on the global stage and has long angled for a permanent seat on the Security Council. In recent years it has emerged as the world's top arms importer as it upgrades equipment for a large but outdated military.
"It is one of the ways of signaling India's arrival on the global stage, that India deserves to be sitting at the high table," said Harsh Pant, a defense expert at King's College, London, describing the launch as a "confidence boost".
The launch, which was flagged well in advance, has attracted none of the criticism from the West faced by hermit state North Korea for a failed bid to send up a similar rocket last week.
But Chinese media noted the test with disapproval.
"The West chooses to overlook India's disregard of nuclear and missile control treaties," China's widely read Global Times
tabloid said in an editorial published before the launch, which was delayed by a day because of bad weather.
"India should not overestimate its strength," said the paper, which is owned by the Chinese Communist Party's main mouthpiece the People's Daily.
India has not signed the non-proliferation treaty for nuclear nations, but enjoys a de facto legitimacy for its arsenal, boosted by a landmark 2008 deal with the United States.
On Wednesday, NATO said it did not consider India a threat. The US State Department said India's non-proliferation record was "solid", while urging restraint.