India has indeed done well with the copybook meticulous launch of nuclear-capable Agni-V missile which has the necessary technology for Inter-Continental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) capabilities as its range is 5000 kms (3100 miles) but the government has preferred to call it only a Long Range Ballistic Missile (LRBM). The successful launch has put India in the elite club of just four other nations – the United States, the United Kingdom, Russia and China – that possess ICBM technology. France too used to have ICBM missiles but it scrapped the project because of high costs.
However, there is a long way to go before the $ 25 million (Rs 125 crore) Agni-V is formally inducted into the defence services and made operational. That is expected to happen sometime in 2016 only, though the Indian scientific and military establishments are working hard to operationalise it earlier than that. At least three or four more test launches are required to analyse data and fine tune the technology to perfection to make it combat ready.
Agni-V is the ultimate weapon that India has acquired. It is a game changer. It has three unique features that make it the most potent weapon in the Indian arsenal. One, it has the capability to function as an anti-satellite missile. This is a significant capability in context of the fact that China had a few years ago successfully launched an anti-satellite missile. Two, Agni-V has the capability of launching a satellite. This feature endows it with a never-before strategic prowess. Imagine the scenario wherein an enemy country during war time destroys Indian navigation satellites which would bring all communication, particularly the military navigation, to a halt. In such a scenario, the Indian military would require to put another navigation satellite within earth’s orbit and that too in a matter of a few hours. Agni-V can do that precisely.
Three, Agni-V is equipped with a unique system to launch multiple small warheads from the parent warheads, thus acting as a force multiplier and wreaking havoc on the enemy. This is similar to what Indian television viewers saw in serials like “Ramayan” and “Mahabharat” a quarter century ago where a single arrow soon after it is unleashed multiplies into many arrows.
The Agni-V launch has been closely watched by the international community, most notably China and Pakistan. In fact, a day after the launch a Chinese military researcher was quoted as saying on April 20 that India has deliberately downgraded the range of Agni-V to avoid causing consternation in Beijing. Du Wenlong, a researcher at China's PLA Academy of Military Sciences, told the Global Times that the Agni-V "actually has the potential to reach targets 8,000 kilometers away". The Chinese have blown hot and cold while reacting to the Agni-V launch. While Beijing has bluntly told India through a strongly-worded article in “Global Times” that it is no match to China’s missile arsenal, officially it has come out with a toned down, restrained reaction saying that India is not a rival but a partner in pursuit of peace and progress. The latter reaction assumes significance as China is known to treat its powerful competitors with respect.
A number of new technologies developed indigenously were successfully tested in the Agni-V mission.  The redundant Navigation systems, very high accuracy Ring Laser Gyro based Inertial Navigation System (RINS) and the most modern and accurate Micro Navigation System (MINS) ensured the missile reach the target point within few meters of accuracy. The high speed onboard computer and fault tolerant software along with robust and reliable bus guided the missile flawlessly.
Agni-V has demonstrated to the world the capabilities of the Indian scientific community and how the Indian scientists have managed to overcome difficult technological hurdles in cobbling up the missile which is 80 % indigenous. The most notable demonstration of the Indian scientific accomplishment is the missile’s ability to reenter the earth’s atmosphere.  ICBMs reenter the atmosphere at a much higher velocity than other ballistic missiles. It does not matter that officially India has desisted from dubbing it as an ICBM and called it just a LRBM. The fact remains that Agni-V possesses ICBM technology. An ICBM’s reentry vehicle’s (RV) nose tip must be able to withstand an enormous amount of heat, around 2,000 degrees Celsius, which is precisely what the Indian scientists have managed to do. This is a major technological and scientific accomplishment.
Now the Indian defence establishment is clamouring for developing a true ICBM with a range of ten thousand kilometers. The Indian government hasn’t yet given a go-ahead signal to this. The government’s green signal to a 10000-km-range missile is only a matter of time. Right now, Agni-V can cover the whole of China and even Eastern Europe even while it is fired from deep inside the Indian territory. Agni-V cannot reach America but a 10000-km-range missile would. That would indeed be a giant leap for the Indian defence community and send a message to the sole superpower of the world even though we have friendly relations with the US. The Agni-V missile has striking similarities to the United States’ Minuteman III which can deliver a single 1.5 megaton weapon 5,000 kilometers, can carry a single thermonuclear warhead and is designed to potentially carry between 3 to 10 warheads at a time, once Multiple Independent Re-entry Vehicles are built for it.
In diplomatic context, India has done well to announce that Agni-V is not targeted at any country and was only a part of India’s ongoing missile programme in the larger interest of safeguarding the country more effectively. The successful Agni-V launch has come a week after North Korea’s failed missile test. It is nobody’s case that India is comparable to North Korea. It goes to India’s credit that the grand success has not gone to the head of Indian political and military top brass and the pronouncements after the event have been restrained and muted. The enemy becomes even wearier when a nation refuses to cover itself with glory even though it deserves to do that and, on the contrary, downplays the achievement. That is precisely what India has done.
The Agni-V success has sent a loud and clear message to China: that India is no longer weak as it was in 1962 when the Chinese delivered a humiliating defeat in a one-sided war.