BHUBANESHWAR, July 4: India on Sunday tested a short-range nuclear capable missile off the east coast, a defence official said, just weeks after talks with Pakistan on reducing the risk of atomic confrontation.

The homegrown Agni surface-to-surface missile, with a strike range of 700 kilometres, was fired from a mobile launcher at Wheeler Island off eastern Orissa state, the official said.

During June 19-20 talks in New Delhi, India and Pakistan agreed to set up a hotline to prevent nuclear confrontation, to continue a ban on nuclear tests and to conclude an agreement on informing each other in advance about impending missile tests.

The 12 metre high missile fired on Sunday, one of the variants of the Agni series, can carry a one-ton payload. It is powered by solid fuel which enables it to travel at 2.5km per second.

It can be fired from both rail-based and road-mobile missile launchers. "This provides the missile with greater operational flexibility", the defence official said.

The missile was first tested on Jan 25, 2002 and again on Jan 9, 2003 from the same launch site. Indian security analyst C.U. Bhaskar said the tests by India and Pakistan were part of efforts to achieve "operational credibility" in relation to their missile programmes.

"A rough thumb rule is ... to conduct 25 to 40 tests before a particular missile is operationally proven and becomes part of the inventory," he said describing the tests as routine with more to follow.

Washington on Thursday expressed concern over Pakistan's move to conduct a key missile test saying it would revive dangers posed by nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles as well as of an arms race in South Asia. -AFP

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