NEW DELHI - India must develop strategic missiles with intercontinental reach to deliver warheads more than 5,500 km away, the countrys senior-most military commander has said, proposing a dramatic increase in the countrys strike range. India plans to cap its strategic missile reach at 5,000 km, establishing a posture of deterrence against China and Pakistan. Indias rising global stature demands developing intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), Indian air force chief Air Chief Marshal PV Naik told Hindustan Times in an exclusive interview. This is the first time that a serving Indian military chief has argued for broadening Indias strike capabilities beyond the immediate neighbourhood. Naik, who heads the chiefs of staff committee, said India should pursue an ICBM programme to acquire ranges of 10,000 km or even more. Breaking out of the regional context is important as the countrys sphere of influence grows. We have no territorial designs on any country, but India needs the capability to match its sphere of influence. He said he believed that an ICBM is within Indias grasp: Theres no point capping the missile programme at 5,000 km. If we have the technical capability, we should build on it. ICBMs can hit targets up to 15,000 kilometres away. Ballistic missiles exit earths atmosphere and re-enter to hit their targets. Currently, the 3,000-km range Agni-III is the only missile in the Indian arsenal that can strike targets inside China. The maiden test of the 5,000-km range Agni-V intermediate range ballistic missile (IRBM) is being planned by the end of this year. Five countries have deployed operational ICBMs with nuclear warheads - the US, Russia, China, France and the UK. Chinas 14,000-km range Dong Feng-31 ICBM can target virtually the entire world. A top Defence Research and Development Organisation scientist said India had the building blocks to develop ICBMs, but where the warhead should go or what the range should be will have to be a political call. Development of an ICBM could cost India upwards of Rs 10,000 crore, about six per cent of the countrys defence budget.