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China says India is a 'partner, not rival' after missile launch

By Chi-Chi Zhang, CNN
April 20, 2012 -- Updated 0708 GMT (1508 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • China downplayed India's successful missile launch this week
  • Foreign ministry official: "We are not rivals but cooperation partners"
  • Rocket has a range that could strike as far away as Shanghai

Beijing (CNN) -- China downplayed India's successful missile launch this week, saying that the two sides are not rivals but cooperating partners.

"China and India are both emerging countries, we are not rivals but cooperation partners," said Liu Weimin, China's foreign ministry spokesman, on Thursday. "We believe the two countries should cherish the hard-won momentum of sound bilateral relations, promote bilateral friendship and cooperation and make active contributions to regional peace and stability."

India's government touted the successful Thursday launch of the Agni V missile -- with a range of 5,000 kilometers (3,100 miles) capable of hitting cities as far as Shanghai -- as a milestone for the country.

"This launch has given a message to the entire world that India has the capability to design, develop, build and manufacture missiles of this class, and we are today a missile power," VK Saraswat, chief of the Defence Research and Development Organisation, told India's Economic Times.

What India missile test means for region
India tests long-range rocket

The Agni V missile is a 17.5-meter-tall (75-feet), three-stage missile designed to carry a 1.5-ton nuclear warhead and is expected to be ready for use by the armed forces in 2014 following a series of tests, the report said.

India's major media outlets touted the launch as India's entry into an elite club of countries, including the United States and Russia. But China's state-backed Global Times newspaper reported in an editorial that, "India shouldn't overestimate its strength."

"India should be clear that China's nuclear power is stronger and more reliable," the editorial said. "For the foreseeable future, India would stand no chance in an overall arms race with China."

While China has not perceived India as a threat, experts say India has boosted military spending in recent years in part due to China's increasing dominance in the Indian Ocean. The two sides fought a war in 1962 over border issues.

"This launch is a part of India's development and modernization," said Ye Hailin, an international relations expert at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. "Some reports of the perceived threats have been exaggerated and I think we should take a step back from this rather than jump to conclusions."

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