The Chinese government has downplayed the impact of Thursday's launch of Agni-V on the bilateral relationship, saying both countries were “not rivals but cooperative partners,” striking a different note from the State-run media, which have criticised the launch in recent days as a “political missile” aimed at China.
“We should cherish the hard-earned momentum of cooperation,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Liu Weimin told reporters at a briefing on Thursday, suggesting that the Chinese government did not view the launch as affecting ties. “The two countries have a sound relationship,” he added. “During the fourth BRICS meeting [in New Delhi last month], the leadership of the two countries agreed on a consensus to further strengthen cooperation.”
A day after the launch, China's State-run media questioned the impact of the test of the missile, which is India's first intercontinental ballistic missile that can reach any part of China. Official broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV), in a report, questioned both the missile's capabilities and the West's “double standards.” CCTV asked why there was “silence” from the international community days after widespread criticism of North Korea's failed rocket launch last week.
The channel quoted Su Xiaohui, a scholar from the official China Institute of International Studies (CIIS), as saying this was “a double standards issue.” “The fundamental issue is the strategic partnership between India and the U.S.,” Ms. Su told CCTV. “The U.S. will not admit to its role in the process, so it chooses to turn a blind eye to India's behaviour.”
Chinese missiles ‘more stable'
China's State-run media also quoted experts as playing down the threat posed by the missile, saying that China's own ballistic missiles, such as the Dongfeng DF-31, were “more stable and reliable.”
CCTV said the “accuracy” of India's missiles was a “vital question,” and the missile programme “needed some improvement” and “did not pose a threat in reality.”
Yao Yunzhu, a senior researcher at the Academy of Military Science of the People's Liberation Army (PLA), also questioned the missile's range. He said it would not “upset the current military balance between China and India because India already has Agni-III with a range of 3,500 km.”
‘Just an improvement'
“I don't think the new missile is a significant breakthrough for India,” she told the China Daily. “It's just an improvement on the range, and will not change the current military strength contrast between the two countries.”