Mon, Jul 05, 2004 - Page 5 News List

India tests missile within weeks of deal with Pakistan

AFP , BHUBANESHWAR, INDIA

India yesterday tested a short-range variant of its nuclear capable surface-to-surface Agni missile from a testing site off the country's east coast, a defense official said.

The homegrown missile, with a strike range of 700km, was tested from a mobile launcher at Wheeler Island off the coast of eastern Orissa state at 10.10am, the official said.

The missile, one of the variants of the Agni (Fire) series, can carry a one-tonne payload.

Defense Ministry spokesman Amitabh Chakravarty in New Delhi described the test as "a perfect launch."

The test comes within weeks of talks between India and Pakistan on reducing the risk of nuclear confrontation.

In the talks in New Delhi last month, both sides 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.

It also comes just days after media reports in Pakistan quoted President Pervez Musharraf as saying that Islamabad would conduct an "important" missile test in two months' time.

Musharraf did not disclose details of the test but said domestic critics who believed that Pakistan had decided to roll back its nuclear and missile programs were living in a "fool's paradise," the Dawn newspaper said on Thursday.

The president did not specify whether the test would be of a nuclear-capable missile.

"It has become a joke that people with negative minds are propagating the ill-notions of roll-back," he was quoted as telling a group of Pakistani journalists.

Early last month, Pakistan test fired a ballistic missile with a range of 1,500km. The missile could carry nuclear warheads deep inside India.

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