India on Tuesday successfully tested a new-generation Agni missile with a strike range of 3,500 km and souped-up “kill efficiency”, prompting excited defence scientists to proclaim it would add “fantastic deterrence” to the country’s nuclear weapons programme. The test of the “most advanced” surface-to-surface missile called Agni-IV also launched the countdown for India to test its most ambitious strategic missile Agni-V, which will have near-ICBM (intercontinental ballistic missile) capabilities with an over 5,000-km range, in December-January. “This test has paved the way for the success of Agni-V mission, which will be launched shortly,” said DRDO’s chief controller (missiles and strategic systems) Avinash Chander. The Agni-IV incorporates many new technologies in navigation, propulsion, avionics and other areas to represent “a quantum leap” in missile technology for India. Having inducted the Pakistan-specific Agni-I (700-km) and Agni-II (over 2,000-km) missiles, the armed forces are now in the process of operationalising the 3,500-km Agni-III after completion of its developmental and pre-induction trials last year. The two-stage Agni-IV and three-stage Agni-V, in turn, are meant to add some much-needed credible deterrence muscle against China, which has a massive nuclear arsenal with missiles like the 11,200-km Dong Feng-31A capable of hitting any Indian city. The canister-launch Agni-V, with its high road mobility and fast-reaction ability, in particular, is being talked about as a small but sharp riposte to China. The Agni-IV represents a significant step towards this objective. Though it was tested for a 3,000-km range , it can easily go up to 3,500 km.The missile, however, will have to be tested several times before it can be ready for serial production and then induction.