Fri, Jan 02, 2009 - Page 5 News List

Pakistan, India swap nuclear site lists amid tensions

AFP , ISLAMABAD

Pakistan and India exchanged lists yesterday of their nuclear installations under an accord aimed at protecting the sites in case of war, officials said, amid simmering tensions over the Mumbai attacks.

The South Asian rivals, whose relations have been rocky since the deadly November attacks on India’s financial center Mumbai, have exchanged the lists annually since 1992, under an agreement that came into force the previous year.

“The lists have been exchanged at the foreign ministries in New Delhi and Islamabad,” a spokesman for the foreign office in Islamabad, Mohammad Sadiq, said.

Under the agreement, both sides are to refrain from attacking nuclear facilities in the event of a war. The neighbors have also set up a telephone hotline to prevent accidental nuclear conflict.

India and Pakistan have fought three wars, two of them over the Himalayan region of Kashmir, which is divided between them but claimed in full by both.

The two countries came close to another war in 2002 after an attack on the Indian parliament that New Delhi blamed on the Pakistan-based militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba — the same group it blames for the carnage in Mumbai.

But after deploying hundreds of thousands of troops to the border, Islamabad and New Delhi retreated following intense international mediation. In 2004, they launched a peace process, but that is now on hold following the Mumbai attacks.

US President George W. Bush on Wednesday spoke with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari. The White House said all had agreed on the need to avoid any increase in tensions.

Pakistan on Tuesday asked India to resume dialogue and urged New Delhi to deactivate its forward air bases and redeploy troops to peacetime locations, but India denied it had moved troops into offensive positions on the border.

India conducted nuclear weapons tests in May 1998. Pakistan, in a tit-for-tat response, detonated its own devices a few days later. In October 2005, the two sides formalized an agreement on pre-notification of ballistic missile tests.

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