India claims to be unimpressed with Pakistani missile testing

 

INDIA-PAKISTAN: India yesterday dismissed Pakistan's second missile test in as many days as "unimpressive", saying it was not daunted by such actions, despite renewed international concern of a war between the two neighbouring nuclear rivals.

"We have said earlier that we are not impressed by these missile antics, particularly when all that is demonstrated is borrowed or imported (missile) ability," the spokeswoman for India's foreign ministry, Ms Nirupama Rao, said in New Delhi.

India claims that Pakistan's missile arsenal and cache of nuclear weapons have been clandestinely acquired from China and North Korea. "The missile tests have been carried out for demonstrative effect keeping in view the domestic audience," the Defence Ministry spokeswoman said.

Those comments followed Pakistan test firing the locally developed Hatf III short-range missile Ghaznavi, named after a medieval Muslim conqueror of India. With a 290 km range, it is capable of hitting targets in India's border regions, where a million troops from the two countries have been massed for over five months. The armies were mobilised last December following the suicide attack by Muslim militants on India's parliament, which Delhi blames on Islamabad.

A day earlier, Pakistan claimed to have successfully tested the Ghauri intermediate-range ballistic missile with a range of 1,500 km - far enough to reach deep into India. The two missiles are capable of carrying conventional and nuclear warheads.

Islamabad says it is conducting a series of missile tests that will end tomorrow but denies they have anything to do with the prevailing tension with Delhi, which soared after Muslim militants attacked the families of soldiers in northern India's Jammu and Kashmir state.

Thirty-one people, including 11 women and 11 children, were killed in the attack which India accused Islamabad of masterminding. Thereafter, the two armies went on "high alert" and began exchanging artillery and mortar fire along their Kashmir border that has claimed more than 50 lives.

The Indian Prime Minister, Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee, also asked the army to ready itself for a "decisive battle" with Pakistan to force it to stop cross-border terrorism in Kashmir. Pakistan denies fuelling Kashmir's 13-year civil war which has claimed 35,000 lives.

Meanwhile, President Bush said Washington had expressed "strong reservations" about Pakistan's missile tests. "We hope that there is restraint in the area, that this will not be viewed as provocation," Mr Bush said in St Petersburg.

Mr Bush has also urged President Pervaiz Musharraf of Pakistan - a key ally in the war on terrorism because of Islamabad's close ties with the Taliban militia in neighbouring Afghanistan - to act on his promise made earlier this year to curb Islamic militants from crossing into India.

He went on: "It is important for President Musharraf to . . . do what he said he's going to do . . . on terror, and that is stop the (militant) incursions across the line (of control that divides Kashmir between the two countries)."

President Vladimir Putin of Russia declared he would invite Gen Musharraf and Mr Vajpayee to meet on the sidelines of a gathering of Asian leaders in Kazakhstan early next month to ease bilateral tensions.