Fri, Nov 17, 2006 - Page 1 News List

Pakistan tests missile after peace talks with India


Pakistan yesterday test fired a nuclear capable ballistic missile, a day after concluding peace talks with India where the South Asian rivals agreed to fresh atomic safety measures.

The medium-range Hatf V, or Ghauri missile, which can strike targets 1,300km away, was fired from an undisclosed location and the test was successful, the Pakistani military said.

"The missile is already in service and the test was conducted to check technical parameters," military spokesman Major-General Shaukat Sultan told reporters.

Pakistani Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz witnessed the launch along with defense chiefs, scientists and engineers from Pakistan's missile program, a military statement said.

"Pakistan can be justifiably proud of its defense capability and the reliability of its nuclear deterrence," the statement quoted Aziz as saying.

Aziz said Pakistan "believed in peace that comes from a position of strength and operational readiness. The defense of the country was non-negotiable."

The prime minister added that Pakistan's nuclear capability had now "matured."

The Ghauri missile is named after a 12th-century Muslim conqueror of India, who came from Afghanistan. It was test fired as part of a training exercise and hit its target, the statement said.

Regional rivals Pakistan and India have routinely conducted missile tests since carrying out tit-for-tat nuclear detonations in May 1998, alarming the world.

Top Indian and Pakistani diplomats concluded two days of talks in New Delhi on Wednesday where they agreed to create a panel to share intelligence on terrorism and move to cut the risk of nuclear weapon "accidents."

The talks rekindled a peace process put on hold since July's Mumbai train bombings, in which 189 people died.

Indian officials said Pakistan's spy agency was linked to the blasts.

The two countries "expressed satisfaction over the implementation of the agreement on pre-notification of flight testing of ballistic missiles" at the talks, they said.

They also agreed on the "early signing" of an agreement to reduce the risk of "accidents relating to nuclear weapons", without giving a specific time frame.

The two sides are to meet next in Islamabad in February.

Pakistan, an Islamic republic, and mainly Hindu India have fought three wars since independence from Britain in 1947.

Two of those conflicts, plus a major skirmish in 1999, have been over the disputed Himalayan territory of Kashmir, which India and Pakistan control in part, but claim in its entirety.

The Delhi talks have thus far failed to make any headway on the Kashmir issue.

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