By Jatindra Dash
BHUBANESWAR, India (Reuters) - India successfully test-fired for a second time a nuclear-capable missile on Sunday that can reach Beijing and much of Europe, bringing a step closer production of a weapon designed to strengthen its nuclear deterrent.
"The test was successful," said Ravi Kumar Gupta, spokesman for the Defense Research and Development Organization (DRDO). "It hit the target in a predefined trajectory. It met all the mission objectives"
A video distributed by the DRDO showed the Agni-V rocket blasting off from a forest clearing on an island off India's east coast state of Odisha.
India is trying to keep up with China's growing military strength and wants to have a viable deterrent against its larger nuclear-armed neighbor.
The two countries have generally warm relations, but they fought a brief Himalayan war in 1962 and a buildup of conventional defenses along their disputed border is a source of tension.
The Agni-V is the most advanced version of the indigenously built Agni, or Fire, series, part of a program that started in the 1960s. Earlier versions could reach old rival Pakistan and western China.
Nuclear-armed Pakistan is increasing its arsenal of nuclear warheads and developing short-range, tactical nuclear weapons, raising concern about an escalating South Asian arms race, the International Institute for Strategic Studies said on Thursday.
The think-tank said in a report the race with Pakistan was increasing the risk of a nuclear exchange during a conventional conflict, perhaps sparked by an act of terrorism.
The Agni-V missile was first tested in April 2012. It is mostly domestically built and has a range of about 5,000 km (3,100 miles). Only the U.N. Security Council permanent members - China, France, Russia the United States and Britain - along with Israel, are believed to have such long-range weapons.
Gupta said India was now ready to start a process of production and subsequent induction of the missile.
(Writing by Anurag Kotoky in NEW DELHI; Editing by Frank Jack Daniel and Robert Birsel)